Our courts stink, literally, but De Lille promises cash to fix them up

Public works minister Patricia de Lille says she has received complaints across the country about the poor state of court buildings.
Public works minister Patricia de Lille says she has received complaints across the country about the poor state of court buildings.
Image: Esa Alexander/Sunday Times

The department of public works and infrastructure has set aside more than R260m for the repairs and refurbishment of court buildings across the country.

Addressing the media in Tshwane on Tuesday, minister Patricia de Lille said the total budget for repairs and refurbishment of court buildings was R260m, of which R229m had been allocated for repairing and refurbishing 105 courts.

"But what worries me is that the department has only spent R24m in the first quarter of this year, just around 10%, when the figure should be at more than 25%. We must work harder and faster because the lives of our citizens are at stake," said De Lille.

She said she had received complaints across the country about the poor state of court buildings.

"In some cases lifts and air-conditioners are not working. In Pinetown [west of Durban], there are reports that rats are eating the lunch and snakes are eating the rats.

"Coupled with this, there’s a persistent stench of sewerage," De Lille said.

She said these conditions had prompted court staff, including prosecutors and magistrates to threaten strike action.

"In the Northern Cape, there’s been little to no maintenance on mobile units. These units... are meant to serve our citizens in the most remote areas of our country.

"In Mpumalanga, court buildings are deteriorating to such an extent that they are a danger to people working there. These buildings are the face of government."

She said her department would spend all the money not used to deal with repairs and refurbishments.

The department, she said, has budgeted R2.5bn for repairs and refurbishment during the current 2019/20 financial year.

"For every R10 the department spends on maintenance and repairs, R1 goes to the maintenance of our courts and department of justice buildings," she said.

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