“The wheels of justice must turn without any hindrance.”
Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola addressed the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services on Wednesday morning.
Providing his “political overview” of the department, he said: “The ultimate test of our resolve against corruption lies firmly in the ability of the criminal justice system to ensure those who have ploughed state coffers are held accountable in a court of law.
“There is no doubt that this [is] a priority of this administration, this [is] also evidenced by the department’s assistance to the NPA. R102 million has been given to the NPA for it to do its work without fear or favour. We have also made it possible for the NPA to solicit the services of a diverse group of counsel who vary in experience.
“We have also signed mutual legal assistance agreements and extradition treaties with various countries across the world to aid the work of the NPA. The wheels of justice must turn without any hindrance. And as we have said, the interests of justice have no borders.”
Last week, News24 reported that eight countries were approached for mutual legal assistance in an attempt to have the Guptas extradited to face state capture allegations, with India and the UAE among them. The other countries are the US, Canada, Switzerland, Mauritius, Hong Kong and China.
This, after the US Treasury announced sanctions against the controversial Gupta family and associate Salim Essa.
On Tuesday, National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi told the same committee that they were experiencing “particular difficulties” with requests for mutual legal assistance (MLAs) from India and the UAE.
Furthermore, senior advocates Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, Wim Trengove, Ngwako Maenetje and Geoff Budlender were appointed to help the NPA’s investigative directorate to bring state capture cases to court.
Lamola also addressed gender-based violence, saying it “remains a sore point and requires all of us to do our bit to curb this scourge”.
“Our people want to see a department that is responsive on this issue but most importantly, our nation wants to see proper plans to address the systemic problems in our processes that led to secondary victimisation,” he said.
He said establishing more sexual offences courts remained an important step in their “quest to eradicate gender-based violence and femicide”.
He said an additional 15 courtrooms were adapted in line with the sexual offences model and this brought the total number of courtrooms adapted to 90.
“We are planning a further 11 courtrooms in the current financial year. Dedicated sexual offences courts that were adapted in the previous financial year include Bredasdorp in the Western Cape, Postmansdorp in the Northern Cape and Thaba ‘Nchu in the Free State.
“We are alive to the fact that the roll-out of these courts is not a silver bullet. Furthermore, whilst we are encouraged by the increase in convictions [for] sexual offences, we are careful not to use that as the only yardstick of performance. We will be closely monitoring the number of matters which are enrolled on court rolls, and the time it takes to finalise these matters.”