NEWLY-ELECTED Pretoria High Court Judge President Dunstan Mlambo has promised to ensure that “access to justice becomes what it should be”.
Judge Mlambo was speaking at the Pretoria Society of Advocates’ dinner, attended by judges of the Pretoria and Johannesburg High Courts, the justices of the Constitutional Court, retired judges and members of the Pretoria and Joburg Bars on Saturday night.
He praised Judge President Bernard Ngoepe, who is retiring as head of the division.
He said Judge Ngoepe had laid a good foundation to ensure there was transformation and he promised to carry on the work.
When Judge Ngoepe became judge president in 1998, he was the only black judge there. He recently said there had been a steady increase in the number of black judges and now more than 50 percent in the division were black.
Judge Ngoepe said although he had seen a steady increase in the number of judges of colour and woman judges, there was room for improvement. “I therefore leave at a time when it can at least be said that we are on track,” he said.
Judge Mlambo said the transformation was due to Judge Ngoepe’s unwavering ideologies. “We are grateful for the efforts you put in in ensuring there is transformation. You set jurisdictions that society can accept and I’m going to continue where you left off,” he said.
Judge Mlambo also spoke about equipping judges with the necessary tools of the trade to help them in the execution of their duties. He said the Pretoria High Court had only one researcher. This needed to be rectified, he said. He also promised to ease the workload judges faced without having to increase the number of judges.
“We can’t have judges without internet connectivity to do their research. Exciting times lie ahead, but more needs to be done,” he said.
Advocate Rit van Rooyen, who is understood to have served at the Bar for 55 years, also spoke at the dinner, held at the Pretoria Country Club. He entertained the guests with stories from when he was practising, before giving them an earful about how they presented cases in court.
He told advocates not to take the profession down the drain in a bid to win cases. “Don’t limit heads of arguments below what the case requires. This can lead to justice not being properly done,” he said.