Upgraded Pongola court to increase access to justice

Friday, February 27, 2009

Pongola - The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development will open the revamped Pongola Circuit Court in KwaZulu-Natal on Saturday to give local residents much needed access to the justice system.

The R10 million revamped building at the Pongola Circuit Court, which will be opened by Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Enver Surty, will render services to 119 977 residents.

The project, which started in February 2006 will accommodate a district court, a regional court and a high court with ample offices to accommodate prosecutors, assessors, clerical support staff and police services.

The court will also offer family law services like Maintenance, Domestic Violence, Children's Court, Small Claims Court and Equality Court.

The Pongola Circuit Court is one of the oldest courts in the province. It had operating from an old hostel which was used to accommodate migrant workers during apartheid in the 1960s.

The hostel was then taken over by the department for court operations in 1967.

The department is expected to open a R13 million renovated building at the Polokwane Circuit Court on Friday.

Finance Minister Trevor Manuel allocated an additional R525 million for the implementation of an occupation-specific dispensation for legal professionals in his Budget Vote earlier this month. The money is to allow for the hiring of more court clerks and lawyers.

Last year, the department allocated R9.7 billion to improve access to and develop a more efficient justice system through the building of new court infrastructure.

The department has focused on creating the necessary infrastructure and human resource capacity in 23 of the 90 Branch Courts to be re-designated as self standing courts.

By designating branch courts as main courts, the communities in the rural and townships will enjoy equal access to justice as their counterparts in the towns and suburbs, and thereby will have their dignity and self worth restored.