Glynnis Breytenbach. Picture: THE TIMES
Glynnis Breytenbach. Picture: THE TIMES

DA justice spokesperson Glynnis Breytenbach on Tuesday hit out at what she termed the “shockingly poor productivity” of the country’s courts. 

Speaking during the budget vote debate on the Office of the Chief Justice and Judicial Administration, Breytenbach noted that the courts were supposed to sit for four-and-a-half hours daily but none were doing so. 

“Very few courts start on time, and most finish early. It is time to enforce court hours, ensure that courts sit for full days, and dispatch many more cases than is currently the case. There should be consequences for such shockingly poor productivity,” Breytenbach said.

”The battle against crime and corruption cannot be won unless the courts sit, and sit productively.”

Breytenbach said the court hours continued to decrease while statistics on how many cases were enrolled and finalised continued to shrink.

“We know that the number of cases reported to the SAPS  is exponentially higher than those that get through the system to some conclusion,” Breytenbach said.

At the same time, Breytenbach decried the “unappetising conditions” at courts around the country with the buildings in need of maintenance and repair. The working conditions were quite shocking, she said.

“The air conditioning in the North Gauteng High Court has not worked for the past 12 years, with temperatures inside the courts often rising above 38°C in the summer. Of course, no-one can be expected to be productive in these conditions. This is the case all around the country. It is simply unacceptable,” Breytenbach said.

Judges had little administrative and research support yet they were expected to produce high quality work on a shoestring budget  and in less than agreeable working conditions.

Breytenbach also touched on outstanding judgements saying a few them were years late. Some were as long as ten years.

“This is clearly just not a state of affairs that can continue, and some sort of discipline needs to be brought to bear, and consequences must ensue for this type of inaction,” she said.

Summing up the debate justice minister Ronald Lamola said further engagements were necessary to enhance the efficiency of the court system.

He acknowledged that the maintenance of courts was a serious problem, adding that government was going to address this.

ensorl@businesslive.co.za