The alignment of the magisterial districts with municipal districts by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development holds serious logistical problems for the citizens of Koukamma Municipality.
The rationale behind this process is to provide greater access to justice services by bringing magistrate’s courts closer to citizens.
Democratic principles require that full public participation process be implemented to consider and resolve all issues at the planning stage before the process of alignment can be finalised. This averts lack of transparency and the likelihood that Koukamma communities are marginalised due to rash and uninformed decisions.
The costs for the expansion of the services and infrastructure for court services in Koukamma and proper holding facilities for trial awaiting prisoners in the same municipality must form part of the plan.
The current magisterial district of Humansdorp includes the two towns of Storms River and Kareedouw within the municipal district of Koukamma.
In each of these the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development established periodical courts that sit once per week and these courts are serviced by a magistrate, a prosecutor and administrative staff from Humansdorp Magistrate’s Court.
Cases that are dealt with at the Periodical Courts are mainly of a criminal nature and very few Family Court orientated cases. People residing in Storms River and Kareedouw who need to make use of services such as maintenance, domestic violence and prevention of harassment have to travel to Humansdorp because there are no administrative services rendered at the Periodical Courts.
The two periodical courts of Storms River and Kareedouw are situated within the South African Police Service’s (SAPS) compounds. It therefore appears there is little separation of powers between the duties and responsibilities of SAPS and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.
The Storms River court includes areas in Tsitsikamma such as Coldstream, Boskop, Thornham, Storms River, Blue Lillies Bush, Sandrift (Nomphumelelo Village), Witelsbos, Woodlands, Clarkson and Eerste River.
People generally use public taxis along the N2 between Coldstream on the Western Cape boundary and Humansdorp. The Kareedouw community also depends on taxis to travel to Humansdorp for services relating to maintenance, domestic violence and protection against harassment.
According to the re-demarcation guidelines Storms River and Kareedouw will in future fall under the magisterial district of Joubertina. This means that residents from the abovementioned settlements will have to travel to Joubertina and not Humansdorp.
There are virtually no established taxi routes between Tsitsikamma and Langkloof and this is certainly not sufficient to provide the required access to judicial services.
It is therefore essential that the taxi industry be included in the consultations with stakeholders currently envisaged by the department of Justice and Constitutional Development and the Koukamma Municipality.
Preliminary indications are that citizens are deadset against the proposed re-demarcation since it will not bring them closer to court services and it will result in logistical nightmare for citizens to travel to Joubertina.
If Minister Michael Masutha is serious about giving the people of Koukamma access to our justice system, he will have to ensure that:
- All stakeholders have free and fair opportunities to participate in the consultation process;
- Sufficient funding is made available for the project in terms of infrastructure, a full staff establishment and sufficient operational budget; and
- Most importantly that there is proper planning in implementing the programme so that courts are not held in inappropriate and inaccessible venues while under construction or renovation, but in a dignified manner so as to respect the status of this vital pillar of our Constitution.
Elza Van Lingen