Johannesburg – Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has vowed to continue raising concerns about the safety of South African judges.
This comes almost two weeks after the HR section of the Chief Justice's offices in Midrand was broken into and 15 laptops, said to contain personal information of judges, were stolen.
The alleged mastermind behind the break-in at the Office of the Chief Justice, Nkosinathi Msimango, was granted R5 000 bail at the Randburg Magistrate Court on Monday (April 3).
Addressing the media following a meeting with stakeholders in the judicial sector on Friday, Mogoeng said the country's lawmakers were the most vulnerable members of society because of the work they do.
"Security around judges and the magistrates is one of the areas that I've focused on as soon as I became Chief Justice. I discussed it more than once with the President. I discussed it at least once with the Deputy president. I discussed IT with the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services and the ministry of police. I raised it again with the SAPS VIP protection services," he said.
Mogoeng said he informed the police that they needed to fully appreciate that, while they can prosecute when dangerous criminals are involved, the buck stops with the judiciary.
"So if it is anybody who is exposed to a lot of risk, it is the judges. They determine the fate (of criminals)."
He added: "The risk of being harmed lies primarily with judicial officers. Even matters involving tenders and other contracts worth billions million of Rands which hurt and can harm the business prospects and entities of people, it is judges who make the final call."
He said when people are frustrated with the outcome, they blame Judges for their unpleasant situation.
" So if anyone needs to be secure, it is the judges."
On the same day of the burglary, South Gauteng High Court Judge Ramarumo Monama was held at gunpoint at his home.
Although arrests have been made, Mogoeng said his office was still in the dark about the case.
He also highlighted that while Judges are offered security in transit, they are easy targets at their homes. He revealed he too was held at gunpoint and hijacked at his property while he was Judge President.
"Part of the problem is that the president judges are provided with security in transit and when they drive around. But when they are dropped off at home, all they have are CCTV cameras. It is an illogicality from where I sit."
He further said: "If you have identified the needs for them to be protected in transit, then you ought to extend the protection to where they stay."
Since the break-in at his offices, security has been beefed up.
I always listen with a lot of curiosity when they say the npa has managed to increase the convition rate. They don't convit. How can you convitct, how can you credit them with convition rate. They come and plead with us to convict.
The risk of being harmed lies primarly with judicial officers. Even matters invlvling tenders and other contracts that involve billions million of rands which hurt and can harm the business prospects and entities of people it is judges who make the final call. When people are frustrated with the outcome, who do you think they are going to blamefor their unpleasant situation it is the judges. So if anyone needs to be secure, it is the judges.
I have continously raised the matter with those I need to raise it with and I will never stop doing so for as long as I'm cheif justice. Part of the problem is that the president judges are provided with security in transit and when they drive around. But when they are dropped off at home, all they have are CCTV cameras. It's an llogicallity from where I sit. If you have identified the needs for them to be protected in transit, then you ought to extend to where they stay.
When I was Judge President, it was inside my house that I was hijacked. I just entered the premises and people came and put a gun onto my head and another one sitting next to me, they took the vehicle. It wasn't in transit. So what is it ther to suggest that these heads of courts are not exposed to the same danger that I was exposed to when i was judge presdient.
Moegoeng said as long as he remained in his office he will not stop fighting for the safety of all South African judges. Mogoeng was speaking at his offices in Midrand at the conclusion of a meeting between Constitutional Court judges and other organisations that fall within the judiciary sector.
Mogoeng said judges were the most vulnerable members of society given the work they do.
"If there's anyone exposed, it is those in the justice system," he said adding they risk being harmed as a result of cases and the sensitive information they handle.
"If anyone needs to be secured... It is Judges," he said.
Mogoeng said he has constantly raised the matter regarding the protection of judicial figures even for several years, even when he was a judge president.
Almost two weeks ago, the Chief Justice's offices were broken into and 15 laptops containing confidential information of judges were taken.
On the same day South Gauteng High Court Judge Ramarumo Monama was held at gun point at his home a few hours after the computers were stolen.
Although arrests have been made, Mogoeng said his office was still in the dark about the case and was, to this day, still unaware if any laptops have been retrieved.
Mogoeng also highlighted that while Judges were offered security in transit, they are easy targets at their homes. He said he too was hijacked at his property.
Since the break in at his offices, security has been beefed up.
Further highlighting some of the matters discussed Mogoeng also said Judges were gravely concerned about the manner in which Road Accident Fund claims are handled and the exorbitant figures involved in these claims.
He said the tendency by lawyers to often delay processes until the eleventh hour wasted the time of Judges and the country's courts. He also pointed out that parties at the meeting unanimously agreed that judgements should no longer be postponed.
He said if not the same day, seven days were sufficient for judgements to be handed down even in criminal matters. This, he said, would require the SAPS to conduct thorough and timeous investigations.
Asked what his views are on the recent Cabinet reshuffle, Mogeng said: I believe the President acted within his Constitornal mandate."
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