Parliament, The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services yesterday received a briefing from the new Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Mr Ronald Lamola.

Newly elected committee Chairperson, Mr Bulelani Magwanishe, said the committee noted the input from the Minister and is especially excited that the Land Courts Bill, which deals with land restitution matters, will be making its way to Parliament. The Bill will, among other things, streamline that court’s jurisdiction and address issues relating to the judges that serve on that court.

The committee commends the fact that this Bill will make its way soon to Parliament. Furthermore, it is encouraging to note that the Bill will aim to address the quantity as well as permanence of the judges serving on this court. We cannot be serious about land restitution if we do not capacitate and provide sufficient resources to this court.

The committee further heard that the modernisation and digitisation of the courts is high on Minister Lamola’s agenda. He made it clear that this will have multiple positive impacts, such as improving financial and record management. We need to exploit the efficiencies of the fourth industrial revolution. We cannot continue to store loads of papers.

Mr Magwanishe said the committee also commends the Minister for focusing on gender-based violence, with a commitment to address this scourge within a decade.

The committee furthermore engaged with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJCD) on its annual performance plan and budget. The committee heard that the newly created Investigative Directorate will pursue all commissions of inquiry matters, with the aim to later claw back state money that was lost through illicit flows. The committee further noted with some concern the 20% vacancy rate in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

We note the vacancy rate. The NPA will appear before the committee next week, where we will seek clarity on the matter and the way forward, said Mr Magwanishe.

He raised concern regarding donor funds for some DoJCD programmes, as the committee feels such funding could be used as a bargaining tool in the future. The department said in response that donor support currently takes the form of technical support, for example researchers, rather than financial.

In terms of the Department of Correctional Services, the Minister repeated that contracts with Bosasa have been terminated. The committee was assured that inmates in correctional facilities are now doing various services previously supplied by Bosasa, including agriculture, themselves. The committee expressed concern regarding the continued overcrowding in facilities, currently at 37%, but noted that the Minister has plans in place to manage this problem.

Mr Magwanishe said it is clear work has been done, but that a great deal remains to be achieved.

Source: Parliament