Pretoria: The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has appointed 18 new sheriffs to fill vacancies countrywide.
This takes the number of permanent operating sheriffs in the country from 348 to 362.
Of these 18 sheriffs, 11 (about 61%) are African, three are white, two are coloured and two are Indians.
Six of these appointed sheriffs are women who have been appointed to large offices in the Western Cape, Pietermaritzburg, Brits and Limpopo.
Sixteen sheriffs will assume duty as of June 1 after completing a mandatory training programme. The other two will assume office on July 1 and September 9 respectively.
Speaking to the media, the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, John Jeffery, said these new sheriffs will go a long way to making the profession more representative, in line with the transformative vision and goals of the Constitution.
“The transformation of the sheriff profession remains our priority in the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and several steps have been taken to change the outlook and functioning of the profession,” said the deputy minister.
Before 1994, there were 465 sheriffs operating nationally. Of these, 22 were women and 443 were men. The racial demographics of these were 414 whites, 44 Africans, five were coloureds and two Indians.
According to their 2009 audit, Deputy Minister Jeffery said most of the white sheriffs were appointed in the most lucrative offices situated in the metropolitan and affluent suburbs, while the majority of the Africans were appointed in the former homelands, which generated low income.
The deputy minister said sheriffs have an important role in the criminal justice system, as they act as third parties to serve the court process and execute the warrants and orders of the court that are issued.
“Sheriffs are an important interface between the public and justice system. Their work is critical in the promotion of constitutional rights, which characterises our democratic society.
“It is therefore necessary that this sector must be regularly capacitated and transformed to ensure that it is in line with our Constitution.”
Deputy Minister Jeffery said the conduct of the sheriffs was important, as it played a big role in how people perceive the legal system.
“If people view the system as hostile, negative and ineffective, there will be no respect for the rule of law. People must be able to have confidence in the justice system, that it will protect their rights and that they will be treated fairly and equally,” he said.
New code of conduct for sheriffs
The South African Board of Sheriffs (SABFS), with the approval of the department, has adopted a new Code of Conduct and Pledge for sheriffs with effect from 1 March.
The code of conduct was last revisited 23 years ago.
The SABFS revised the code to ensure that it is in line with the Constitution and in particular, the principles of Batho Pele.
The proposed Code of Conduct has these following provisions:
The conduct of a sheriff entrusted with the service or execution of a process must act without avoidable delay in accordance with the Rules of Court and provided that any process, requiring urgent attention shall be dealt with immediately.
Trust money must be paid out to the person entitled thereto without avoidable delay.
A sheriff may not perform any act as sheriff in any matter in which he or she has a direct or indirect interest.
A sheriff must at all times act in an impartial, unbiased and fair manner towards all parties and must ensure that deputy sheriffs in his or her employ do the same.
A sheriff must serve members of the public in the official language in which he or she is addressed or otherwise communicated with.
A sheriff may not act in any way that will bring the good name and esteem of the office of sheriff in particular and the administration of justice in general into disrepute or cause it to appear in a bad light.
Each appointed Sheriff, permanent or acting will required to complete and sign a service level agreement.
Deputy Minister Jeffery hoped that the new pledge would improve service delivery by the sheriffs’ profession and assist in renewing the public’s faith in the profession.
SOURCE: South African Official News