This is how far the courts have come – CJ


Our Constitution commands me to stand before you today, to report what I have done in the past year, and I am only too happy to oblige. As one of the three State organs, the Judiciary is bound by the national values and principles in Article 10 of the Constitution. Further, Section 5 (2) (b) of the Judicial Service Act, 2011, requires the Chief Justice to give an annual report to the nation on the State of the Judiciary and the Administration of Justice. This is the inaugural State of the Judiciary Report.

It takes stock of our achievements in the past year and discusses the challenges in delivering on this institution’s constitutional and statutory mandate. It is the Report I want to present, again on the eve of an iconic day, Mashujaa Day, a day that demonstrates that the struggle to liberate a country or an institution is not without peril but the challenge must be borne with cowardice or hesitation.

Exactly a year ago today, I presented to the nation A Progress Report of the First 120 Days, which described the Judiciary at the time, and signalled plans for the future. The past 12 months has produced tremendous effort and sacrifice on the part of many people in the Judiciary, and I am pleased to report that their labour has not been in vain. We have, for example, finalized 421, 827 cases, hired 251 senior staff, established four (4) new High Courts, launched two new magistrates courts, launched a mobile courts initiative for the marginalised areas, developed simplified rules, concluded stalled construction of court buildings, conducted Judicial Marches, operationalized the Judiciary Fund, and established a public complaints system, among others.

The Judiciary’s core mandate is to ensure access to justice for all, irrespective of status. For many ordinary people, the quest for justice has been hampered by lack of physical access to courts because of long distances, complex and unfriendly procedures, lack of information on court processes and procedures, delays in determining cases, and alienation from the justice system. This is why the overall goal of The Judiciary Transformation Framework 2012 – 2016, which was launched on May 31, 2012 as the blueprint for turning around this institution, is the access to and expeditious delivery of justice.

The JTF seeks to reset the relationship between this institution and other arms of government, to alter its organisational culture, and to make it a service institution that focuses on people. It is what the decency of democracy requires. These are minimum tests that a normally functioning democracy in the modern age must meet. Only the least confident, most parochial, or excessively pathological should find threats in them. The public understands this; the elite need to join them.

When the drafters of our Constitution and laws thought it necessary to provide for the giving of this Report, they were — rightly so — raising the bar of public accountability. Making the fine but poignant point that those who hold public office must always reconnect and remain answerable to the people, they were alive to the often-forgotten connection between taxation and democracy. It is a scorecard they demanded and I am happy today to give it.

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