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Lamola Shines Light on Single Judiciary

August 14, 2019

Department of Justice and Constitutional Development

14 August 2019

The justice and correctional services ministry is committed to developing policies, in consultation with the Chief Justice, to deliver efficient and effective legal services.

Minister Ronald Lamola emphasized this in an address at the strategic planning session of the Office of the Chief Justice in Centurion.

He added that the envisaged services must be accessible and valued by both the profession and citizens.

Mention was also made of the concept of the Single Judiciary which the minister hopes can be finalised as part of the process of transforming the judiciary.

“The ‘Single judiciary’ concept envisions a process through which both the superior and lower courts are administered by a single system, as envisaged by the Constitution,” he said.

According to the minister, up to now, judges enjoyed a large degree of independence as compared to magistrates.

“The debate of the concept of a single judiciary must seek to achieve desirability for the harmonisation of the Magistrates Commission and the Judicial Service Commission with a view to establishing a unified regulatory framework for the entire Judiciary,” he said.

The minister pointed out that “any model of harmonisation must have regard for the scope and mandate of the Judicial Service Commission and the Magistrates Commission respectively, and the peculiarities attached to each”.

He supported the call for a “symposium on Judicial Authority for the Republic of South Africa”.

The minister declared that all judicial officials need to ensure that South Africa has a functioning justice system “which ensures that citizens have at their disposal effective legal aid; enough judges of the right calibre to do the work without undue delay or haste; an effective police force; and a humane and rehabilitative prison service”.

Meanwhile, the justice and constitutional development department has published the Draft Recognition of Customary Marriages Amendment Bill on its website.

The proposed legislation’s explanatory summary was published last week indicating that it will soon be tabled in parliament.

The draft bill aims to:

• amend the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act, 1998, so as to further regulate the proprietary consequences of customary marriages entered into before the commencement of the said Act; and
• provide for matters connected therewith.

Cabinet approved the proposed legislation at the end of July 2019 for tabling in parliament.

In an earlier statement acknowledging the approval, the department pointed out that the draft bill brings section 7(1) and (2) of the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act of 1998 in line with a 2017 Constitutional Court judgment which declared the provisions constitutionally invalid.

The sections discriminate unfairly against women in customary marriages.

The draft bill flows from a Constitutional Court confirmation that a Limpopo High Court order declaring section 7(1) of the act to be constitutionally invalid was the correct decision.

The High Court had ruled that section 7(1) discriminated against women in polygamous customary marriages entered into before the commencement of the act.

The draft bill seeks to ensure that the spouses in a customary marriage have joint and equal ownership and other rights and rights of management and control over marital property.

The draft bill is yet to be tabled.