Magistrates strike affecting court cases

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Johannesburg - There were disruptions in several district and regional courts in parts of the country on Tuesday, as the second day of a protest by magistrates continued.

In Port Shepstone on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast, one magistrate postponed all the cases on his roll, the Office of Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said in a statement.

In the Family Court, two presiding magistrates dealt only with urgent matters pertaining to women and children and postponed all other cases.

“In Ixopo, the magistrates were postponing all criminal matters. However, they were dealing with bail applications. In respect of Family Courts, they were dealing only with urgent matters,” it said.

In Pinetown and in Madadeni most cases were postponed while in Nquthu, criminal courts were only carrying out postponements.

At the Randburg Magistrate's Court, none of the 12 permanently appointed magistrates, who are supporting the protest, were doing trials.

“They were still reportedly at work and carrying out other judicial functions,” the Office said.

Six acting magistrates and the acting heads of the office were assisting with trials.

“In the North West, the magistrates’ protest action was limited to courts in Moretele and Odi,” Mogoeng's office said.

“However, details were still not available by noon today.”

It said in the Northern Cape, participation in the protest was limited to a court in Barkley West where three trials were postponed.

“As at lunchtime today (Tuesday) ....there continued to be no major disruptions to court proceedings in the majority of regional and district magistrates courts...” it said.

“Other than these isolated incidents; all courts nationally functioned normally, all magistrates were in court and cases were heard in the normal manner, and there we no go-slows reported.”

Some 1300 magistrates began striking on Monday. They want a single pay structure for the judiciary, one that would have their salaries and benefits put on the same sliding scale as those of judges.

This could see their salaries increase by almost 100 percent. The dispute over the salary increase forms part of a matter before the Constitutional

Meanwhile, the Judicial Officers' Association of SA (Joasa) said the nationwide protest had disrupted courts on Monday and Tuesday, despite reports stating otherwise.

Joasa president Nazeem Joemath said 70 percent of courts nationwide were disrupted on Monday and he expected a similar situation on Tuesday.

He said the protest would escalate if Joasa did not get a response to its demands.

“We want meaningful engagement and so far we are not getting that,” said Joemath.

The National Association of Democratic Lawyers (Nadel) on Tuesday said the impartiality of the judiciary would be at risk if public disagreements between magistrates and government continued.

“As a cornerstone of our constitutional democracy no element of the judiciary should put its impartiality at risk,” said Nadel spokeswoman Nokukhanya Jele.

“The independence of the judiciary will be negatively affected by overt expressions of discord between the magistracy and other arms of government.”

She said though all people were entitled to fair labour practices, the judiciary played a unique role in the constitutional dispensation.

Magistrates should take into consideration their obligations to society.

“The magistracy is enjoined to use existing structures and institutions at their disposal in order to address concerns with respect to salaries and employment benefits,” said Jele. - Sapa



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