Newly appointed justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola has announced plans to modernise and digitise SA courts, which he said operated on outdated systems.
“While the previous administrations have undertaken an enormous task in expanding the courts’ footprint by building new courts, especially in rural and previously marginalised areas, I have already expressed the need to modernise the court system as part of the legacy of the 6th administration,” he said.
“We cannot continue to function under the business processes defined by the Criminal Procedure Act of 1977, which does not exploit the efficiencies of the fourth industrial revolution,” said Lamola, addressing MPs on Wednesday.
“We cannot, in this time and age, spend millions of rands, if not billions, to pay physical storage for records kept on paper when… modern jurisdictions are digitising their records; buy paper books when court judgments and publications can be accessed quickly and easily through technology, and send police and sheriffs to effect physical delivery of court processes when such can be efficiently done through the use of information communication technology,” he added.
Lamola said modernisation and digitisation would reduce the need for more space and its attendant cost of employing more staff to manage the manual process and paper.
“This is an area this cluster has been in need of,” said ANC MP Hishaam Mohamed, who until the May 8 elections was head of justice in the Western Cape.
Lamola also announced his plans to present to parliament a draft Land Court Bill which he said would strengthen adjudication in relation to land restitution, expropriation of land and land distribution.
He said the ministry was consulting key stakeholders, including the judiciary, on the draft.
Lamola said they were determined to improve the quality of justice, in particular the eradication of gender-based violence. He said in its annual performance plan, his department would ensure the full implementation of the declaration of the summit on gender-based violence and femicide, which President Cyril Ramaphosa hosted last year.
“The sexual offences courts must be geared towards the immediate reduction of the scourge of gender-based violence and sexual offences … aim toward its complete eradication in a decade’s time.”