Launch of Magistrates Matter
The Democratic Governance and Rights Unit (DGRU) and Judges Matter, at the University of Cape Town were thrilled to officially launch their new project Magistrates Matter and their latest research project on the Magistracy in South Africa via a Zoom meeting on Thursday 29 October 2020.
We were honoured to be joined by distinguished guests; Deputy Minister of Justice John Jeffrey and Regional Court President for Limpopo, Jakkie Wessels who both provided invaluable insight into the biggest challenges currently being faced by the magistrates courts, as well as the roles that civil society and the profession could do to support better access to justice.
As Deputy Minister of Justice John Jeffery noted at the launch:
“…if one believes that justice matters, then it is imperative to acknowledge that magistrates’ matter – and they matter in a big way… Often our magistrates are the very face of the law. Our magistrate’s courts are at the forefront of people’s interaction with the law and the justice system. A justice system that speaks to the needs of our people, and more importantly, a justice system that speaks to the needs of all South Africans.”
He went on to say that;
“So the question is, how do we ensure that our judicial officers enjoy the broader confidence of the public? How do we hold the judiciary accountable without infringing on its independence? How do we support our courts without interfering in them? And this is where bodies such as Magistrates Matter and the DGRU are fundamental.”
Regional Court President for Limpopo, Jakkie Wessels said that
“The research is extremely important, and that proper research is being done. And looking at the recommendations that were mentioned, many of these things are things we have been talking about and asking for for a long time and hopefully with this research report and recommendations we will get a little bit closer in achieving these goals – and that it will be taken seriously with them (DGRU) behind these recommendations.”
She went on to say that
“With regards to access to justice – we cannot over emphasize how important that is. It is a basic right – and an essential principle to the rule of law that there must be access to justice. But even more than that, if you look at the right to equality; it provides specifically that everybody has the right to equal protection and benefit to the law as well. And without access to justice the right to equality is being violated as well.”