Address in the Debate: Budget Vote 23 - Justice and Constitutional Development by UDM Member of Parliament (05 May 2010)

 

Mr Speaker, honourable Minister and deputy Minister and honourable Members,

The budget vote before us represent the means by which Government seeks to resolve the vital issue of Justice and Constitutional Development. Therefore as a tool that needs to give life to policy it must be judged against the important policy questions facing the country in terms of the Justice system.

It is well known that the judiciary has been under repeated attack for a number of years now. Individual judges and the institution as a whole, including the Constitutional Court have been badmouthed and attacked in the most unbecoming manner.

Another fact that we cannot ignore is that the ability of the Justice system to dispense justice is being questioned by many South Africans because the rate of successful prosecutions are shockingly low. Indeed there is a strong argument to be made that the courts represent a bottleneck in the administration of justice because of the backlogs that cause an untenable high number of awaiting-trial prisoners overcrowding the prisons.

It is therefore undeniable that this Government needs to spend significant amounts on making the country’s legal system work. It is therefore troubling that the Department’s budget has decreased in real terms.

Chairperson, within this context we are perturbed about the latest developments at the NPA. The comments and behaviour of the National Director of Public Prosecutions are deeply disturbing and seem to indicate a heavy-handed and anti-democratic intent to dismantle vital components of the NPA and remove some of its leading members under the guise of so-called ‘reforms’. We are particularly concerned that in many cases Government, represented by the honourable Minister, appears to be as surprised as the rest of us by these developments. The portfolio committee did not have sufficient time to consider these proposed institutional changes and how they may impact upon the budget. There should be no uncertainty that the constitutional obligation of the NPA is to prosecute without fear or favour – any erosion of this prerogative is a direct attack on our democratic dispensation.

R2.4 billion is allocated in this budget for the NPA, but we are not entirely clear what this funding is intended for. Are we being asked to fund the destruction of the NPA as an independent institution that pursues its mandate without fear or favour? We call on the honourable Minister to state unequivocally that the independence of the NPA and other elements of the justice system will be protected at all costs.

The UDM supports the budget vote.

I thank you.