The Role of Programme Management in Transforming the Judiciary in South Africa

Author: Masangwana, Vuyelwa
Supervisor: Dr Roche Steyn
Date: September 2009

The research focusses on the role of programme management in transforming the judiciary. The tasks given to the judiciary entail more demanding capabilities and performance; it is expected to find not only the means for addressing traditional challenges of delivering effective justice to the people, but also strategies and mechanisms that are potent enough to remove the many bottlenecks which stand in the way.

South Africa has an independent judiciary, subject only to the Constitution and the Law. In practice, however, the judiciary has become a multifunctional structure whose domain overlaps those of other political branches of the state. Judicial review, for example, brings the courts into the centre of political discourse. This is so because the courts in effect monitor the operation of state machinery and the distribution of powers between the different branches of government.

The separation of powers emphasises the separateness and independence of the judiciary, which is central to the protection of civil liberties and protection from arbitrary power.  The courts perform their mediating function between the governed and government by seeing to it that the executive observes the limits of its power, and that those limits are finally determined in cases of doubt by the judiciary. To preserve legality, the courts exercise supervision. Government departments are accountable to Parliament as regards their efficiency and adherence to policy. Of that, Parliament is the only judge. It is, however, accountable to a court of justice for the lawfulness of what it does. Of that, the court is the only judge. Thus judges take account of policy only in the sense that their application of a statute naturally depends on their understanding of the statute’s purpose or intent. Judges are not creative agents of public policy in the same way that their elaboration of legal principle can be creative. In determining legal rights and duties, judges do not make policy.

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJCD) is responsible for the administration of the courts and constitutional development. It is the mission of the department to uphold and protect the Constitution and the rule of law. The department is accountable to the public and the state in rendering accessible, fair, speedy and cost-effective administration of justice in the interest of a safer and more secure South Africa.  The department aims to achieve this by promoting constitutional democracy, providing appropriate legal services, sound management of courts, and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms.  It performs these functions in conjunction with judges, magistrates, the National Director of Public Prosecution (NDPP), and the Directors of Public Prosecution (DPPs), who are independent. The DOJCD’s responsibilities include the provision of adequate resources for the proper and efficient functioning of the criminal and civil justice system.

Programme management, as it is generally referred to, is an implementation tool that delivers organisational benefits resulting from aligned corporate, business-unit and operations strategies. It facilitates coordinated and integrated management of portfolios of projects, tasks and processes that bring about strategic transformation, continuous innovative improvement and customer service excellence in organisations, with the aim of achieving benefits of strategic importance.

As explained above, the justice system involves not only the judiciary, but the DOJCD, NDPP, DPP and magistrates as well. However, all these entities function as independent bodies without a common strategic plan to ensure that justice is delivered effectively and efficiently. Through this research, the researcher aims to assist the judiciary to realise the need for consolidated effort and hence the need for a programme management office to coordinate and integrate initiatives between the entities.