Parliament - MPs have vowed to request more funding for the justice
department after hearing how courts have fallen into disrepair, judges are unable to access records and vacancies remain because there are no offices
for new recruits.
"We will make representations to the appropriations
committee," Luwellyn Landers, the chairperson of parliament's portfolio
committee on justice, said on Thursday after three days of briefings by
"We cannot allow this to happen to justice."
The committee will then petition Treasury to adjust the
medium-term expenditure framework for the department, which has faced
budget cuts in real terms since 2009.
Acting chief financial officer Johan Johnson said the
situation at this point was so dire - with an annual budget of R15.4bn - that in lower courts the department spent 78% of its
allocation on salaries and only 22% on operations.
"We would have liked to at least achieve the public service ideal ratio of 60% to 40%."
Johnson said it was impossible to change the equation
at present because the department simply did not have the money to open
more facilities. It was therefore battling to fulfil its obligations
under the Child Justice Act, the Sexual Offences Act and the Child
Maintenance Act because it lacked both the staff and the service points.
"There is no point appointing more staff if you have nowhere to put them."
He warned that a budget allocation of an additional
R100m for court infrastructure would not go far, and once new
courts were built there would likely be a lack of funds to run them.
"If we are going to open the Limpopo High Court, we will need operational funds to run that court."
A chief director at the department, Tshilidzi
Ramanyimi, said the department had a backlog of 55 infrastructure
projects at the moment. The cash shortfall meant it faced a stark choice
between starting these and doing maintenance on existing structures.
"Our infrastructure is very old. The Durban High Court
is over 40 years old and has not been upgraded. That will lead to a
frequent breakdown of equipment.
"So unfortunately we are not talking about an upgrade,
we are talking about a total overhaul that puts a lot of strain on our
limited budget. So we have to strike a balance. Do we upgrade what we
have in place, or do we go and provide a service where there is none?"
The committee heard that maintenance problems persisted
even at the Supreme Court of Appeal, and expressed particular concern
about the plight of staff at the high court in Johannesburg.
According to a report by the deputy judge president of
the court last year, judges have for years battled with incomplete and
inaccurate court records. It warned that plans for five new courtrooms
were hopelessly inadequate to accommodate the division's growing
The justice department's budget is forecast to grow at
5.9% annually for the next two financial years. Johnson said this
made it nigh impossible to absorb inflationary pressures and expand
The National Prosecuting Authority told MPs it needs
at least an additional R250m a year to appoint more prosecutors
to meet its performance targets.
National Director for Public Prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba
said pleas to National Treasury in this regard have thus far fallen on