Too many judgments from the Constitutional Court are late


By Marecia Damons, GroundUp

The highest court in the country sets a poor example for other courts by delivering judgments late again and again. The Constitutional Court currently has four late judgments outstanding and many others have also been delivered late this year.

The judicial norms and standards for courts require that judgments in civil and criminal cases should generally not be reserved without a fixed date for delivering judgment.

Instead of delivering judgment right after a hearing or shortly afterwards, the court may decide to reserve judgment without a set date for judgment.

The judicial norms and standards state that, apart from “exceptional cases where it is not possible to do so, everything possible must be done to deliver a verdict no later than three months after the trial”.

According to the latest report on the Chief Justice’s reserved sentences, 181 sentences were pending in courts nationwide for at least six months by December last year. A total of 901 sentences were reserved.

GroundUp has compiled a list of judgments that were delivered late. A total of ten judgments, which had been reserved by the Constitutional Court since August last year, were delivered six months late. A total of 19 was delivered only after three months and was – according to the judicial norms and standards – delivered late.

Last week, GroundUp submitted an inquiry to the office of the Chief Justice about 21 cases that are still awaiting judgment on the Constitutional Court’s website. Subsequently, the status of some of these cases was updated and now there are only 18 outstanding judgments.

Some cases listed have been settled years ago, but still appear on the list.

Judgment in the case between Sasol Chevron Holdings and the commissioner for the South African Revenue Service (SARS), for example, was reserved on 4 May this year. However, judgment was delivered on 3 October this year; the website of the Constitutional Court still listed it as pending.

Another example is the case between Sassa and the life insurance company Lion of Africa regarding deductions from child allowances. Judgment was already delivered on May 26, 2016, but it is listed on the court’s website as pending judgment. The website also lists Bonginkosi Khanyile against the state as reserved on March 1, 2017. Judgment has already been delivered in this case as well.

Based on the Constitutional Court’s list of outstanding sentences and excluding the above, there are four sentences reserved more than six months ago that are still outstanding:

  • Judgment in the case between Estelle Booysen (née Swanepoel) and Jacobus Cornelius van Eden was reserved on 18 August last year;
  • judgment in the case between Robert Andrew Groves and the Minister of Police was reserved on 14 February this year;
  • judgment in the case between MC Olesitse against the Minister of Police was reserved on 16 February this year; and
  • judgment in the case between Tereza Rayment and the Minister of the Interior was reserved on 28 February this year.

GroundUp has contacted the chief justice’s office on several occasions to determine which cases have been settled at the Constitutional Court and which are still outstanding. Although the inquiry is apparently “attention”, the office stopped responding after several follow-up requests.

  • This post is originally on GroundUp published and is used with permission on RNews.