Judiciary's views 'considered'

2009-10-22 21:09

Cape Town - The views of the judiciary will be fully taken into account in new legislation dealing with the restructuring of the high courts, it emerged on Thursday.

In a written reply to a parliamentary question by the Democratic Alliance's Dene Smuts, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said the draft legislation had been submitted to new Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo for the judiciary's comments.

The bills would only be published for public comment after the judiciary's views had been considered, Radebe said.

Hope for Radebe

Smuts said in a statement there was every reason to hope that the restructuring of the courts under Radebe would be a more considered process than the "attempted assault" on judicial independence by former minister Brigitte Mabandla and her deputy Johnny de Lange after the 2004 election.

At that time, the judiciary was shocked at the inclusion of provisions in the then 14th Constitution Amendment Bill and Superior Courts Bill, which would have allowed government to take administrative control of the courts, as well as other provisions that had not been discussed with the judges.

By contrast, Radebe had stated a new Constitution Amendment Bill and a revised Superior Courts Bill would only be published after the views of the judiciary had been received and considered.

"In addition, I believe that the minister agreed at a meeting with the Chief Justice and Heads of Court early in June to proceed with the rationalisation of the areas of jurisdiction of all courts, but to leave the contentious aspects of the Mabandla policy aside for discussion," she said.

'Tumult I over'

Radebe's reply also confirmed that general jurisdiction would be conferred on the Constitutional Court as the new "apex court".

"This development, long under discussion, is to be welcomed."

It was also understood that Ngcobo was committed to retaining administrative control of the courts.

"The indications are the tumult of the immediate past is behind us," Smuts said.