Judges conference kicks off

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has called on judges to bring their minds together to build a stronger judiciary.

He was delivering the opening address at the Judge's Conference which kicked off on Tuesday.

One of the aims of the conference is to provide judges and magistrates with a platform to, among other issues, reflect on Judicial independence, including institutional independence.

“This conference is a response to many calls from various colleagues for a conference. This is your conference, use it to ensure that our judiciary is a strong judiciary. Use it to ensure that decisions are taken that will make sure that the administration of justice in South Africa is put at a higher level.

“This conference is a conference of the judiciary. It is an opportunity for us to talk about issues that affect us. It is an opportunity for us to put our heads together to shape the future of our judiciary to the extent that we can. And as we shape that future, we must be alive to the fact that we will be contributing to the shaping of the future of this country,” he said.

Zondo emphasised that the independence of the judiciary remains steadfast even in the face of unproven allegations.

“We have already been accused of being captured but it is an accusation that we reject with the contempt it deserves. For four years I called for everybody who has evidence that the judiciary in South Africa is captured and…up to now nobody has come with any evidence.

“The accusation is made by those who wish to ensure that the judiciary of South Africa is not trusted by the public...because it suits their purposes. No evidence has been put forward to support any such allegation, accusation,” he said.

30 years of democracy

Reflecting on the 30 years of South Africa’s democratic dispensation, Zondo said it is imperative the country takes stock of “all that that was wrong that has been done in the past 30 years that should have no place in the fourth decade of our democracy”.

“We must make sure that in the fourth decade of our democracy and beyond, we do not repeat the mistakes that we may have done in the past 30 years. And as a country…there are many mistakes that have been done. There are many mistakes that have pulled us as a country back. The least we can do is not repeat them,” he said.

He added that although there are negatives, there are some positives that can be highlighted – particularly in the transformation of the judiciary.

“As I stand in front of you this morning, I am very pleased at seeing the diversity that is reflected in all of you as this morning’s audience. Immediately before 1994, if a judge’s conference was held, it would have been a complete opposite of what I see in this room. Because it would have been a conference of almost white men only. There would have been two white women, there would have been two black males.

“The contrast between the diversity that is reflected in this room and the conference that would have been held immediately before 1994, reflects, in my view, the opposites that apartheid and democracy represent.

“With democracy, we see the inclusiveness that is reflected this morning. With apartheid, we saw the exclusiveness where the majority was excluded, where women were excluded.

“But when you look at this conference today, 30 years later, we see a lot of our sisters, we see a lot of black men, a lot of white men. It’s beautiful. Great progress has been achieved in building a judiciary that broadly reflects the people of this country. We might not have reached our ultimate goal but there’s no doubt that a lot of progress has been made,” he said.

The conference is taking place at Sun City in the North West and will conclude on Thursday. – SAnews.gov.za