Madam Speaker, honourable members, the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development deals with issues that remain important to each and every citizen of South Africa.
Justice is an issue that arises in the lives of each and every South African on a daily basis. Constitutional development is crucial to the continued wellbeing of all the citizens of this country and to our constitutional democracy.
The minister and his deputy have a huge job to do. A huge burden of responsibility rests upon them.
The minister often tells us that his is the task of ensuring that South Africans live in safety and security, without fear – a very big task indeed. Sometimes he succeeds, sometimes his efforts bring success and for this we are all grateful.
But most times, unfortunately, he continually fails to make a difference in the lives of ordinary South Africans.
Statistics show that we are moving backwards, that we are finalising fewer and fewer cases with convictions, that the backlog of cases in all courts except the High Courts, continues to increase. We are less and less effective. Court hours across all courts, from the lower courts to the High Courts, are decreasing. Courts across the board start late, adjourn early and postpone cases for long periods, causingthe cost of litigation, both criminal and civil, to be beyond the reach of all but a few ordinary South Africans.
I am sorry to tell you Minister that you are failing – miserably.
I am not, today, going to quote boring figures or statistics, those are available for anyone with sufficient interest to go and read up on. It is sufficient, for today’s purposes, to point out that they demonstrate amply that too little progress is being made.
Of course, you are hampered by a constrained budget and austerity naturally has a negative effect on the ability to deliver, but even making generous allowance for that fact, there is no acceptable explanation to be given for the abject, dismal failure of you and your department to deliver adequate and acceptable justice to the citizens of this country.
Your department comprises of five departments and I concede again that yours is an enormous task. But having accepted that task, you should hold yourself to account and deliver.
Instead, as always, your offer paltry excuses, shift the blame and take no responsibility for the lack of performance in your own department and those over which you preside.
The baseline of the Justice Vote will decrease by R2 billion over the Medium Term, with the decrease being felt most severely by Court Services, the Administration Programme, State Legal Services, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and Legal Aid SA.
But there is nothing to be gained from bleating about a lack of funds. This department is your responsibility and you must ensure that it delivers. You must simply produce more with less. That is your challenge.
In the State of the Nation Address, the President highlighted the following issues that affect the Justice
- The need to reinforce a commitment to ethical behaviour and leadership;
- That plunder of public resources will not be tolerated;
- That law enforcement institutions should be strengthened and shielded from interference in carrying out the investigation and prosecution of all acts of corruption; and
- That leadership issues at the NPA will be attended to urgently to ensure that the institution is stabilised and able to perform its duties without fear, favour or prejudice.
Now, Minister, you will appreciate that charity begins at home. You must provide the leadership and the example for all of these lofty ideals to become reality.
You have sat on your hands and watched the NPA being systematically destroyed from the inside by the previous President and his deployees.
When Mxolisi Nxasana appealed to you for assistance in halting the rot and removing the toxic cabal of Jiba and Mwrebi, you did nothing. Instead, you involved yourself, rather questionably, in the exit negotiations and subsequent illegal contract.
When Abrahams, in a Hollywood style press conference, announced the still-born and disgraceful prosecution of the Honourable Pravin Gordhan and others, you remained silent.
When, days later, he was forced to backtrack spectacularly, you did nothing to hold him to account.
The National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) may be the appointee of the President, but you have considerable power and ability to influence the President in how he deals with such shameful behaviour. You have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution and protect the citizens of this country, yet you did nothing.
Your favourite old crutch of trying to smear me by saying I face serious criminal charges and am therefore biased against the NPA has now, unfortunately for you, being taken from you. Even that prosecution, championed by you and Abrahams, failed spectacularly, with a finding of no evidence at all agains. This year you will have to come up with something better.
The DA, given the opportunity to run this department, would instil ethical leadership and accountability.
This, of course, costs nothing – but you would know nothing of that. You are that person that thought it would be just fine to meet with the NDPP at Luthuli House just hours before the ill-fated and indefensible announcement of the prosecution of the Honourable Gordhan.
The DA would ensure that prosecutors arrive at work on time and that courts sit for the entire court day, as required. This would cost nothing extra.
There are hundreds of prosecutors and court officials who go to work each day and do a sterling job under difficult conditions. To encourage all to follow their example would be no extra expense.
If courts sat for the requisite 4.30 that they are intended to sit, and not the paltry 3.16 that they currently sit, more cases would be finalised, and the backlog would be reduced. This would not cost one cent more. They are already being paid to do it. But of course, about accountability you know very little.
When questions are submitted to you by the official opposition regarding the nefarious activities of the Public Protector and she tells you to take a hike as she regards herself (erroneously) as accountable only to the National Assembly, you meekly accept that situation and offer her claptrap as an answer. Such behaviour is unconscionable, and frankly, cannot go unchallenged. Yet you remain silent.
When the Public Protector sits at the Justice Committee and tells us that the State Security Agency is involved in almost every aspect of her office, from front-of-house security to setting up, installing and running her Electronic Case Management System, you remain silent.
Not one word emanates from your office. It is shameful. This is an office tasked with protecting our Constitutional Democracy. It must investigate on behalf of citizens independently, fearlessly and without favour or prejudice.
There is no shred of independence left in that office, but you do nothing.
Ms Busisiwe Mkhwebane released the Estina Dairy Report, for which she has been lambasted in courts on a variety of levels, without one shred of investigation into the accountability of politicians and the Gupta cabal surrounding the ex-president, and we hear no word from you.
The DA would ensure that the judges of South Africa have access to the essential tools of their trade.
Since July last year, no judge has had access to the South African Law Reports, the Criminal Law Reports, Butterworths or the All South African Law Reports, neither electronically nor otherwise.
They only have access to the publicly available SAFLI, which reports selectively. They have been rendered incapable of doing their jobs, but you do nothing.
When the President, with no discernable consultation, transfers Arthur Fraser, the deeply compromised Director-General of State Security to the same position in Correctional Services, over which you preside, you say nothing.
The deputy minister assured us that none of you could refuse. Fraser is so compromised, so deeply involved in the illegal PAN project that he should be suspended and prosecuted. Yet you accept the transfer and say nothing.
Let’s face it, you are never going to speak truth to power. You are not concerned with delivering justice to the people of South Africa.This is not about money or how much of it you get or don’t get. You are desperately clinging to your job
– at all costs. And certainly at the cost of a functional justice system for South Africa.
I thank you.