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Breaking; South Africa’s courts and legal services to be taken online

The Department of Justice and Correctional Services said it will roll out four digital pilot programs across the country this year, with four more initiatives in the works to digitize and modernize the court in South Africa.


Judicial Minister Ronald Lamola stated in his budget speech to parliament on Wednesday (18 May) that four online justice services projects that were piloted over the previous year were effective, with the intention of rolling them out nationally in the current financial year.

Among the projects are:


The Family Court in Point Durban piloted the Maintenance Online Services.


The Trusts Online Services solution allows new Trusts applications to be registered and documentation submitted online. The Masters' Office: Pretoria piloted this system with known, trusted agents who used the web portal.

Deceased Estates Online Services, which allows new Deceased Estates to be registered and paperwork submitted online at the Masters' Office in Pretoria.


The Office of the Master will roll out Phase 1 of this solution across the country this fiscal year.

The State Attorneys Management System has capabilities that enable end-to-end management and tracking of state attorney cases and files, including a case management component.


"All of these will be implemented across the country this fiscal year," Lamola stated.

In addition to these services, the minister stated that his department will endeavor to improve the efficiency and efficacy of the criminal justice system in South Africa through the Integrated Justice System, which has four more modernization efforts scheduled for the year.


e-Documents and Forms for the Criminal Justice System (Justice Forms)

This program focuses on examining processes to eliminate forms that are no longer needed due to electronic information interchange between Criminal Justice System agencies, as well as digitizing all documents and certificates that are still required.


For case participants, Phase 2 of the Court Audio Visual Solution

This will be a video conferencing and video-ID verification facility for witness/victim interviews and testimony in circumstances when direct contact is impractical or prohibitively expensive, as well as in cases where expert witnesses are required in court.


If the public cannot afford data or does not have the smart devices required to connect to the Court Dial-in facility, these services will be made available for use at local government offices based on the arrangement.

Courts' E-Scheduling and Messaging

This is a court information management and sharing system that tracks court dates, court process start times, witness, victim, accused, defense counsel, and prosecutors' attendance and checking-in.


This approach will make scheduling and communicating court rulings easier (e.g., postponements and new dates). The solution was created, tested, and then implemented in production. The pilot began at the magistrates' courts of Bronkhorstspruit and Cullinan.

Bail Payment Processing and Release Management in One Place (Pay-Bail-Anywhere)

Once completely designed and operational, the Integrated Bail Payment Processing and Release Management solution will allow lawyers/family members of the accused to "pay bail anywhere."


The department will also focus on updating legislation to match more current norms, according to Lamola.


"We will be working on 18 bills this fiscal year that will change our policy trajectory." This includes the RICA law, which will add more oversight measures and bring it up to speed with technological advances," he stated.

In 2021, the Constitutional Court declared the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (RICA) illegal. The Act is illegal, according to the court, since it lacks necessary protections to 'defend the right to privacy, as bolstered by the rights to freedom of expression and the media, access to courts, and a fair trial.'


The decision came after journalist Sam Sole, who had been under governmental monitoring, and the Amabhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism filed a constitutional challenge to the Act.


Plans to take South Africa’s courts and legal services online (businesstech.co.za)

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Department of Justice and Correctional Services Point Durban Pretoria Ronald Lamola Trusts

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