'Judges must uphold ethics'

Kamogelo Seekoei

Kamogelo Seekoei

The biggest threat to the independence of the judiciary could be sabotaged by those who failed to uphold ethics within the judiciary itself.

Addressing a magistrates' conference at the weekend, Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke also called on judges to act honourably in the discharge of their duties.

The two-day conference at Gallagher Estate in Midrand, Johannesburg, was attended by more than 600 magistrates from South Africa and other Southern Africa Development Community countries.

The first of its kind, the conference also looked at appointments, accountability, training requirements, ethics, institutional governance and enhancing the efficiency of the lower courts and challenges magistrates faced daily.

In his address, Moseneke called on those within the judiciary to uphold ethics.

He said judges should always - and not only in the discharge of official duties - act honourably and in a manner befitting judicial office.

"That implies that all activities of a judge must be compatible with the status of judicial office. A judge must comply with the law of the land," Moseneke said.

The conference was also meant to start dialogue on aspects relating to the "transformation in mindset of people who administered justice".

Kwandilizwe Nqabala, Northern Cape regional court president, said traditional leaders and communities had to be involved in the enforcement of the law.

"The community must not distance itself from law enforcement. Traditional leaders must also prosecute and punish offenders. We want to implement that in urban areas as well. There will be people trained on how to prosecute and punish offenders," Nqabala said.

He said the proposal of involving the community was discussed during the conference. A report would come out later. He said he believed that the conference would help magistrates in dealing with the challenge of overcrowding in the courts.

Minister of Justice Brigitte Mabandla said what the conference needed to explore was whether "the magistracy in substance and form" was truly transformed from what it was during apartheid.