Superior Courts Bill Sent to NCOP

Department of Justice and Constitutional Development

The national assembly has approved two key justice bills that aim to alter the way the judicial system is structured.

The Constitution Seventeenth Amendment Bill and the Superior Courts Bill were tabled in parliament in June last year.

The Constitution Seventeenth Amendment Bill seeks to amend the Constitution so as to further define the role of the chief justice as the head of the judiciary.

References to “magistrates’ courts” will also be changed to “lower courts”.

The proposed legislation will also create a single high court for South Africa. It will consist of various divisions.

The bill will confirm the constitutional court as the highest court of the land.

The bill will empower the judicial service commission to deal with matters pertaining to the judicial officers of the lower courts.

In essence, it would lay the constitutional groundwork for the provisions of the Superior Courts Bill.

The Superior Courts Bill aims to consolidate all the laws relating to the constitutional court, the supreme court of appeal and the high court into a single piece of legislation.

It would establish a single high court of South Africa.

The bill was approved by cabinet in December 2010.

The thinking behind the bill flows from the Constitution.

Item 16(6) of schedule 6 of the Constitution calls for the rationalisation of the court system in order to conform with the requirements of the Constitution.

An integrated system of court governance would also be introduced.

The bill also seeks to:

• Incorporate certain specialist courts into the high court
• Make provision for the administration of the judicial functions of all courts
• Make provision for administrative and budgetary matters relating to the superior courts

Speaking in February last year, the justice minister, Jeff Radebe, declared that the intention of the bill was to create a single, integrated judicial system that is accessible and affordable.

Both bills now go to the national council of provinces for concurrence.

In an address to the national assembly this week during the debate on the two bills, the minister indicated that plans to absorb the magistracy into the judiciary will be dealt with in a separate bill.

According to the minister, work has already started on the Lower Courts Bill.

The plan is to place the bill before cabinet once the Superior Courts Bill has become law.

The national assembly also approved the Prevention and Combating of Torture of Persons Bill this week.

The bill was tabled in Parliament in June 2012.

The bill aims to:

•    Give effect to South Africa’s obligations in terms of the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
•    Recognise the offence of torture of persons
•    Prevent and combat the torture of persons within or across the borders of South Africa

The convention calls on states to put in place effective measures to prevent torture in their respective territories.

The convention also seeks to prevent people from being transported from a particular country to face torture in another.

The bill was sent to the NCOP for concurrence.

Parliament also approved the Sheriffs Amendment Bill this week.

It has been sent to president Zuma for assent.

The bill was tabled in Parliament at the end of January 2012. Cabinet approved the bill in November last year.

The proposed legislation aims to:

•    Facilitate the establishment of advisory committees to help with the appointment of sheriffs
•    Regulate the appointment of acting sheriffs
•    Empower the minister to appoint sheriffs and acting sheriffs in areas where no appointments were made
•    Regulate allowances paid to members of the South African Board for Sheriffs
•    Provide for the dissolution of the board and the appointment of an interim board
•    Regulate the use of the fidelity fund for sheriffs
•    Regulate the auditing of records and financial statements of the fidelity fund for sheriffs
•    Regulate improper conduct by sheriffs

Sabinet Cape Town Office

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