Daily Archives: May 25, 2013

South Africans must re-define themselves as Africans: Bapela

Pretoria: South Africans need to re-define themselves as part of the continent to promote unity and root out xenophobia.

In an interview with SAnews on Saturday, Obed Bapela, the Deputy Minister in the Presidency: Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation, also said that while a lot of progress has been made in bringing about development in Africa, there are still challenges and bottlenecks that deprive the continent of peace and prosperity for its people.

Bapela said this as the continent celebrated the annual Africa Day, which also marked the 50th anniversary of the Organisation of African Union (OAU), now known as the African Union (AU).

Speaking after attending Africa Day celebrations in Mpumalanga, Bapela said the days of South Africans defining themselves as non-Africans should be a thing of the past.

“I think it is very important really for South Africans to start re-defining ourselves to as to who we are.

“We are first Africans and then South Africans. It cannot be the other way round. South Africa is a country within the continent of Africa.

“It is here, we are connected and we are part of the continent because you here when a person goes to visit either Kenya or Uganda, you hear them saying ‘I’m going to Africa’ as if he or she is not staying in African soil.

“We are part of the continent, we are part of the 54 nations of the African Union and we will forever be part of it because history, plus geography and nature [makes us part] of this continent,” he said.

Root out xenophobic attacks

Bapela said South Africans should play a central role to boot xenophobia out of the continent.

In May 2008, disturbing visuals of a Mozambican national Ernisto Nhamuave being burnt to death at the height of xenophobic attacks at the Ramaphosa informal settlement in Ekurhuleni shocked the world.

Several others also lost their lives in the attacks, that spread throuhgout the country after they reportedly started in the Alexandra township in northern Johannesburg.

Bapela said South Africans should work towards promoting solidarity.

“Let’s also talk about xenophobic attacks in our situations, what’s sparking them. What are the issues that make us not to talk as Africans because we are all Africans.

“Because the victims are only African foreign nationals, other foreign nationals from other continents such as Asia and Europe are not being affected by these xenophobic attacks.

“So let’s then begin to reflect in that redefinition of ourselves of Africans of South African origin. I think the sooner that consciousness and awareness grows amongst us, I think the environment will also be better.”

Vision 2063: Africa to develop after civil wars

Despite Africa being the second-most growing economy in the World after Asia, boasting mineral-rich soil that has attracted foreign investment, the continent challenges related to poverty and unemployment continue to strangle its people.

With South Africa emerging as a global economic player having affirmed its position within the BRICS countries, education and unemployment remains a primary concern in the country.

Other African states struggle to grow their economies due to civil wars brought about by rebellious acts from armed forces gunning to overthrow their governments.

Heads of states from 54 AU member countries are currently meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to hold the 21st Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union.

The meeting coincides with Africa Day celebrations under the theme: 2013, Year of Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance.

The AU is chaired by former Home Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Dlamini-Zuma told a meeting of African foreign minister in Addis Ababa that while progress has been made to bring prosperity in Africa in the past decade, this had not translated into rapid social transfortaion.

Bapela said he agreed with Dlamini-Zuma’s views.

“Definitely there are successes but still we have a lot of challenges. We are in a continent that was colonised for over 300 years.

“While the continent has now found freedom for every nation except Western Sahara, the issue of development now is the biggest challenge that is facing the continent.

“For example there is no peace as yet achieved in quite a number of African countries. We talk of Somali, we talk of the Democratic Republic of Congo, we talk of Guinea-Bissau where there was a coup d’état. So stability and peace have really been the issues that we have had to grapple with.”

Bapela said the vision of the AU Commission for the next 50 years was to rid the continent of all this problems and invest in education to deal with youth unemployment, and to invest in the continent’s infrastructure to promote inter-connectivity between African countries.

“The connectivity we are talking about will be in a form of telecommunications that includes broadband.

“It is also rail connectivity because when you look at the rail system in Africa, from the North there is rail, from the South there is rail but somewhere in the middle towards Central Africa Republic and others, those rails are not connected at all.

“Roads also are not fully connected and as a result, trade amongst states is still limited because of the infrastructure connectivity that is not there.

“The airport airlines are not yet fully connected, and we still have to travel to another country in Europe in order to connect to an African country.

Message by President Jacob Zuma on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Organisation of African Unity/African Union

_: On 25th May 1963 leaders of 32 African independent states signed the Charter establishing the Organisation for African Unity.

On that historical day, African Leaders met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to give birth to the Organisation of African Unity. Today, precisely fifty years on, we celebrate this historical event of 25 May 1963.

It is well documented that the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the precursor of the African Union (AU), prioritised the decolonisation of Africa as its main objective. In this regard, the OAU established the African Liberation Committee. The people of Africa, within the framework of the OAU Charter, took a conscious and deliberate decision to wage a united struggle against colonialism and apartheid.

Our fellow Africans, in collaboration with revolutionary forces of the world, persistently supported our liberation movements as we fought to end the abhorrent system of apartheid in our country.

It was in the pursuit of African Unity that apartheid in South Africa continued to experience intensified international isolation from the 1960s until its demise in the 1990s. We recall with pride and gratitude, the role of the Frontline States whose leaders and people were at the forefront of this campaign which subsequently led to the formation of the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC), or the Southern African Development Community as we know it today.

It was against this background that the ANC was granted observer status in the OAU attended by the Late Oliver Tambo, one of the gallant sons of our continent and later the President of the ANC. We are grateful of the gesture from the founders of our Union, which proved that we were not alone in our plight and that we were joined side-by-side by our fellow Africans.

As South Africa, we can proudly attest that South Africa, guided by the oldest liberation movement in Africa, the African National Congress (ANC), has a long and a proud tradition of working for African Unity as former President Nelson Mandela and the late ANC President Oliver Tambo played an important role in the process of the establishment of the OAU.

Today we recall that the OAU was founded against the backdrop of promoting the unity and solidarity of African States; to co-ordinate and intensify their co-operation and efforts to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa; defend their sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence; eradicate all forms of colonialism from Africa; promote international co-operation, giving due regard to the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and coordinate and harmonise members’ political, diplomatic, economic, educational, cultural, health, welfare, scientific, technical and defence policies.

Thus, 25 May, celebrated as Africa Day , marks the quest for the unity of the continent and for the political and economic emancipation of its people. Following the defeat of the scourge of apartheid, a fully democratic South Africa was officially admitted as the 53rd Member State of the AU.

The 50th anniversary of the OAU would be distorted without alluding to the Berlin Conference which opened on 15 November 1884 and ended in 1885.
Historical accounts reveal that at the request of Portugal, the then German Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck called-upon on all the European powers, to apportion the African continent amongst them and finally lay to rest the confusions over the colonization and control of the continent.

The Berlin Conference created a platform for the European powers to harmonize their colonial efforts and avert a possible military confrontation among them. The colonizers understood that for their continent to persist and subjugate Africans, they on their part must forge unity.

The OAU therefore created a mechanism for the African intelligentsia and those at the forefront of the struggle against colonialism to coordinate and intensify their cooperation to emancipate the continent from colonial subjugation. The OAU thus provided a sense of purpose for the African people to restore their freedom, dignity and to strive for a better life for all Africans, hence assuming the vehicle that carried the hopes and aspirations of all Africans. African hopes were revived that a day shall dawn, when all vestiges of colonialism will be obliterated from the African soil. It is through the OAU that the need to harmonize members’ political, diplomatic, economic, cultural, health, welfare, scientific, technical and defence policies was conceived and contemplated.

As we mark the 50th Anniversary of the OAU, we must intensify our efforts and our calls for the reform of the governing global order. While we rightfully celebrate the 50th Anniversary, we are cognisant of the challenges we face. The road ahead to attain peace, stability and prosperity on the African Continent for all her peoples is still arduous. This calls on all leaders of the continent to sharpen their resolve and through the African Union, raise our collective voices, and confront the challenges presented by the current global dispensation.

As the Republic of South Africa, we are mindful of these challenges that confront our continent and the AU. The Union will have to confront these in order to realise its mandate and harness the Aro-optimism that it rising in the world. As South Africa on this day we must also dedicate ourselves to unity, kinship and tolerance. We must work hard to eradicate from our society all forms of xenophobia, racism and related intolerances.

Africa’s challenges are not insurmountable and that the African Union, can build on the proud legacy left by the Organisation of African Unity.

We must continue to work together to intensify Africa’s development through the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). The Continent must map its journey through voluntary self-assessment through the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). It should be recalled that at the turn of the new millennium, Africa’s development agenda has gained momentum which can be sustained in the following way; an assertion by the NEPAD programme that peace, stability and good governance are foremost prerequisites for development has been heeded and subscribed to by a considerable number of African states and is bearing fruits for the continent.

NEPAD has reinforced the culture of economic development orientation on the continent which also emphasizes common African priorities for trade and commercial interaction with the rest of the world. This includes the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa and the Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative with the prime objectives of ridding the continent of physical infrastructure deficits, and ensuring integration of markets and regions across the continent, and Africa cannot be sidelined any longer, with the continent recently experiencing some of its best periods of economic growth. Amidst the global financial meltdown, Africa registered more than 5% growth rate. These benefits must be consolidated.

The Republic of South Africa wishes to encourage all fellow Member States, the Organs of the African Union and the various Regional Economic Communities to mark this momentous milestone and to continue to work together for the realisation of a prosperous, peaceful and developed Africa, a monumental legacy for future generations.

It is further hoped that as we rededicate ourselves to the task of the African Renaissance, we will spare no efforts to contribute resources to make our Union self-reliant and independent. A free and self-sustaining Africa will be a pipe dream if we remain beholden to external sources.

In moving forward to commemorate another fifty years, we wish for goodness and prosperity for our continent and its People.

We are reminded of this wish through the African Union anthem which we must all sing aloud today:

AU ANTHEM
“Let us all unite and celebrate together
The victories won for our liberation
Let us dedicate ourselves to rise together
To defend our liberty and unity

O Sons and Daughters of Africa
Flesh of the Sun and Flesh of the Sky
Let us make Africa the Tree of Life

Let us all unite and sing together
To uphold the bonds that frame our destiny
Let us dedicate ourselves to fight together
For lasting peace and justice on earth

O Sons and Daughters of Africa
Flesh of the Sun and Flesh of the Sky
Let us make Africa the Tree of Life

Let us all unite and toil together
To give the best we have to Africa
The cradle of mankind and fount of culture
Our pride and hope at break of dawn

O Sons and Daughters of Africa
Flesh of the Sun and Flesh of the Sky
Let us make Africa the Tree of Life.”

Enquiries:
Mac Maharaj
Cell: 079 879 3203

Maritime Industry must strive to achieve a significant increase in black participation – Trade and Industry Deputy Minister Elizabeth Thabethe

_: The Maritime Industry must strive to achieve a significant increase in black participation through ownership, management and employment in companies throughout the industry value chain. This was said by the Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Ms Elizabeth Thabethe at the Women in Shipping Industry workshop held in Durban.

The purpose of the workshop was to enlighten women about the shipping industry, the skills needed and the opportunities that are available for women in this industry.

“As an industry you must pursue a growth strategy that prioritises the retention and creation of quality jobs, most of which are on landside operations. In order to make this a reality, the industry must develop a deliberate strategy to increase access to skills, capital and economic opportunities and therefore raise the economic value add of every employee and enterprise in the industry,” said Thabethe.

Thabethe also said that the industry must commit to embark on a major communication and marketing campaign, which will take the Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) Charter for the Maritime Industry to every company within the industry, to ensure maximum participation by all stakeholders.

“This will require all stakeholders to recruit new black people into the industry and increase their skills and those of existing employees to best-practice international levels, while creating a supportive culture for their talents to thrive,” she added.

In terms of the Maritime BEE Service Strategy, the overarching long-term vision is to develop South Africa to become one of the world’s top 35 maritime nations by the year 2014.

Enquiries:
Sidwell Medupe, Departmental Spokesperson
Cell: 079 492 1774
Tel: 012 394 1650

North West Premier Thandi Modise wishes centenarian Rosinah Chanki Mokoene a happy 100th birthday

_: North West Premier Thandi Modise wishes to congratulate centenarian Rosinah Chanki Mokoene of Hebron near Ga-Rankuwa outside Pretoria on celebrating her 100th birthday today.

“We wish Granny Mokoene a very Happy 100th birthday and a healthy and pleasant future. Longevity is a blessing from God. Gray hair is indeed a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life. The province is blessed to have among its senior citizen someone who has lived 1 200 months, 5 200 weeks, 36 500 days, 876 000 hours, over 52 million minutes – over 3 billon seconds to reach Granny Mokoene ’s admirable age. Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days,” says Premier Modise.

Premier would have loved to share special day with Granny Mokoene but has delegated MEC for Social Development, Women, Children and People with disabilities, Mosetsanagape Mokomele-Mothibi to represent her at the birthday celebration function organised by the Mokeone and Moumakoe families as she is nursing flu.

Modise calls on communities to love and care for the aged and protect them against abuse and neglect.

Enquiries:
Lesiba Moses Kgwele, Spokesperson
Tel: 018 388 3705
Cell: 083 629 1987
Fax: 018 388 3157

Address by Mr Andries Nel, Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, on the occasion of the Annual General Meeting of the Black Lawyers Association held at the Meropa Casino, Limpopo

_: Chairperson,
Mr Busani Mabunda, President of the BLA,
Mrs Hlaleleni Matolo-Dlepu, Deputy President of the BLA,
Mr PC Mogale, Chairperson of the Limpopo Branch of the BLA,
Justice PM Mojapelo, Deputy Judge President of the South Gauteng High Court,
Justice EM Kubushi, Judge of the North Gauteng High Court and Deputy Chairperson of the BLA Legal Education Centre,
Members of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession,
Officials of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Comrades and friends.

I thank you for the honour to address the Black Lawyers Association on Africa Day, 25 May, and more especially the Africa Day that marks the 50th Anniversary of the formation of the Organisation of African Unity.

On 13 June 1994 the then recently elected first president of a democratic South Africa, President Nelson Mandela, addressed a meeting of the OAU in Tunis. On that historic occasion President Mandela said: “In the distant days of antiquity, a Roman sentenced this African city to death: “Carthage must be destroyed (Carthago delenda est).”

And Carthage was destroyed. Today we wander among its ruins, only our imagination and historical records enable us to experience its magnificence. Only our African being makes it possible for us to hear the piteous cries of the victims of the vengeance of the Roman Empire.

And yet we can say this, that all human civilisation rests on foundations such as the ruins of the African city of Carthage. These architectural remains, like the pyramids of Egypt, the sculptures of the ancients kingdoms of Ghana and Mali and Benin, like the temples of Ethiopia, the Zimbabwe ruins and the rock paintings of the Kgalagadi and Namib deserts, all speak of Africa`s contribution to the formation of the condition of civilisation.

But in the end, Carthage was destroyed. During the long interregnum, the children of Africa were carted away as slaves. Our lands became the property of other nations, our resources a source of enrichment for other peoples and our kings and queens mere servants of foreign powers.

In the end, we were held out as the outstanding example of the beneficiaries of charity, because we became the permanent victims of famine, of destructive conflicts and of the pestilence of the natural world. On our knees because history, society and nature had defeated us, we could be nothing but beggars. What the Romans had sought with the destruction of Carthage, had been achieved.

But the ancient pride of the peoples of our continent asserted itself and gave us hope in the form of giants such as Queen Regent Labotsibeni of Swaziland, Mohammed V of Morocco, Abdul Gamal Nasser of Egypt, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Murtala Mohammed of Nigeria, Patrice Lumumba of Zaire, Amilcar Cabral of Guinea Bissau, Aghostino Neto of Angola, Eduardo Mondlane and Samora Machel of Mozambique, Seretse Khama of Botswana, WEB Du Bois and Martin Luther king of America, Marcus Garvey of Jamaica, Albert Luthuli and Oliver Thambo of South Africa.

By their deeds, by the struggles they led, these and many other patriots said to us that neither Carthage nor Africa had been destroyed. They conveyed the message that the long interregnum of humiliation was over. It is in their honour that we stand here today. It is a tribute to their heroism that, today, we are able to address this august gathering.

The titanic effort that has brought liberation to South Africa, and ensured the total liberation of Africa, constitutes an act of redemption for the black people of the world. It is a gift of emancipation also to those who, because they were white, imposed on themselves the heavy burden of assuming the mantle of rulers of all humanity. It says to all who will listen and understand that, by ending the apartheid barbarity that was the offspring of European colonisation, Africa has, once more, contributed to the advance of human civilisation and further expanded the frontiers of liberty everywhere.

We are here today not to thank you, dear brothers and sisters, because such thanks would be misplaced among fellow-combatants – we are here to salute and congratulate you for a most magnificent and historical victory over an inhuman system whose very name was tyranny, injustice and bigotry.

When the history of our struggle is written, it will tell a glorious tale of African solidarity, of African`s adherence to principles. It will tell a moving story of the sacrifices that the peoples of our continent made, to ensure that that intolerable insult to human dignity, the apartheid crime against humanity, became a thing of the past. It will speak of the contributions of freedom – whose value is as measureless as the gold beneath the soil of our country – the contribution which all of Africa made, from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in the north, to the confluence of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans in the north.

Africa shed her blood and surrendered the lives of her children so that all her children could be free. She gave of her limited wealth and resources so that all of Africa should be liberated. She opened heart of hospitality and her head so full of wise counsel, so that we should emerge victorious. A million times, she put her hand to the plough that has now dug up the encrusted burden of oppression accumulated for centuries.

The total liberation of Africa from foreign and white minority rule has now been achieved. Our colleagues who have served with distinction on the OAU liberation committee have already carried out the historical task of winding up this institution, which we shall always remember as a frontline fighter for the emancipation of the people of our continent.

Finally, at this summit meeting in Tunis, we shall remove from our agenda the consideration of the question of Apartheid South Africa.

Where South Africa appears on the agenda again, let it be because we want to discuss what its contribution shall be to the making of the new African renaissance. Let it be because we want to discuss what materials it will supply for the rebuilding of the African city of Carthage.

One epoch with its historic tasks has come to an end. Surely, another must commence with its own challenges. Africa cries out for a new birth, Carthage awaits the restoration of its glory.

If freedom was the crown which the fighters of liberation sought to place on the head of mother Africa, let the upliftment, the happiness, prosperity and comfort of her children be the jewel of the crown.

There can be no dispute among us that we must bend every effort to rebuild the African economies. You, your excellencies, have discussed this matter many times and elaborated the ideas whose implementation would lead us to success.

The fundamentals of what needs to be done are known to all of us. Not least among these are the need to address the reality that Africa continues to be a net exporter of capital and suffers from deteriorating terms of trade. Our capacity to be self-reliant, to find the internal resources to generate sustained development, remains very limited.

Quite correctly, we have also spent time discussing the equally complex questions that bear on the nature and quality of governance. These, too, are central to our capacity to produce the better life which our people demand and deserve. In this regard, we surely must face the matter squarely that where there is something wrong in the manner in which we govern ourselves, it must be said that the fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves that we are ill-governed.

Tribute is due to the great thinkers of our continent who have been and are trying to move all of us to understand the intimate inter-connection between the great issues of our day of peace, stability, democracy, human rights, cooperation and development.”

Reading these words, I must admit that I am somewhat perplexed by the theme of 2013 annual general meeting of BLA, namely: “The Relevance and future of the Black Lawyers Association Post the Legal Practice Act.” To put it bluntly, I think it is the relevance of the theme that must be the subject of discussion not the relevance of the BLA.

Surely the relevance and future of the BLA, with its rich and treasured history, cannot and should not be measured, determined and or be depended on the passage through Parliament, of the Legal Practice Bill of 2012, no matter how significant its importance.

In fact, I would hasten to say that the deliberations on, and the eventual passing of the Legal Practice Bill by Parliament, not only heralds in a new era in the work of organisations such as the BLA, but necessitates its active participation in moulding the outcome of not only the Legal Practice Bill, but also other transformative initiatives, into one that will benefit of all the people of South Africa.

This is underscored by the aims and objectives of the BLA, which include:

upholding, protecting and advancing human rights, civil liberties and the rule of law for the politically, socially and economically marginalised;
challenging all discriminatory practices;
promoting a non- racial, non- sexist judicial system and society;
striving for the empowerment of disadvantaged communities; and
promoting and advancing the evolution of jurisprudential order based on and reflective of the cultural aspirations, norms and values of the majority of the members.
The BLA has a history of fighting for the underprivileged and the voiceless. Your organisation has an illustrious history of lawyers that were partisans of the struggle against oppression and for social justice. Do not cede that role. Do not allow lethargy to set in. Your voice must be heard. You must intervene and influence the discourse that will inform the transformation of our legal profession and the system within which it practices.

The customs and technicalities of public affairs are still influenced by the ethos of the old order. Like your predecessors that challenged apartheid, you must challenge the assumptions of the old ethos that still influences the practice and the language of the law to fashion and align it with our Constitution.

Whilst our Constitution offers revolutionary possibilities, there are those that invoke the language of the Constitution but still seek to marginalise and keep out large sectors of our society from the protections of our Constitution. If your voice and efforts and the voice and efforts of progressive are not heard, as we witness in so many societies, we risk the law becoming the servant of the elite, responding to politically strong and financially powerful factions.

You must, like the great thinkers of our continent that President Mandela referred to, continue to move all of us to understand the intimate inter-connection between the great issues of our day of peace, stability, democracy, human rights, cooperation and development.

I have been requested to share perspectives on ‘Transformation of the Judiciary and the Legal profession, including the procurement of legal services to black practitioners.”

Let me, however, start by indemnifying myself against the possiblity of accusations of self-plagarism. In the energetic and and pro-active nature of youth the BLA Student Chapter at UNISA was one step ahead of its parent body and invited me to address its meeting on 4 May. I was also invited to address the AGM of the Tygerberg Circle of the Cape Law Society. This input incorporates elements from both of these inputs.

The Constitution is the supreme law of our land. It is also a supremely transformational constitution. It requires of us to follow a transformative course action in respect of access to justice and the transformation of the judiciary and legal system.

Transformation, the big T-word, necessarily includes – but is not limited to – attaining demographic representivity.

Transformation in the South African context basically means making our society, look, work, think and be like the Constitution says it should. Anyone who thinks that it does, or is close to doing so, or will do so in a decade, simply doesn’t “get it.”

Firstly, the Constitution enjoins us to heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights and to lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law.

Secondly, it guarantees everyone the right to have any dispute that can be resolved by the application of law decided in a fair public hearing before a court or, where appropriate, another independent and impartial tribunal or forum.

Thirdly, it provides that the need for the judiciary to reflect broadly the racial and gender composition of South Africa must be considered when judicial officers are appointed.

Fourthly, it says that all courts, including their structure, composition, functioning and jurisdiction, and all relevant legislation, must be rationalised with a view to establishing a judicial system suited to the requirements of the new constitution.
Government is committed to strengthening of the independence, the dignity, accessibility and effectiveness of the courts as part of this transformation process.

The Seventeenth Constitutional Amendment Act, the Superior Courts Bill, and the South African Judicial Education Institute Act, provide a strong legislative framework to realize this objective. Measures such as the establishment of the Office of the Chief Justice as a department advance the objective of greater administrative independence of the judiciary.

Your Annual General Meeting takes place 11 Days after the Superior Courts Bill has been approved by the National Council of Provinces – on 14 May 2013. The Bill has now been passed by both Houses of Parliament and it will be submitted to the President to be assented to and signed into an Act.

The Superior Courts Bill aims to rationalise, consolidate, and amend the laws relating to the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Appeal and the High Courts in a single Act of Parliament, and makes provision for the administration of the judicial functions of all courts. The Superior Courts Bill is but one of the very important building blocks in the transformation of the justice system.

It has been preceded by the Constitution Seventeenth Amendment Act of 2012, that defines and strengthens the role of the Chief Justice as the head of the judiciary, exercising responsibility over the establishment and monitoring of norms and standards for the judicial functions of all courts.

We are also confident that with the innovation of the creation of the Office of the Chief Justice as a separate entity from the department, there will be adequate capacity to drive the case flow management initiative which is led by the Chief Justice. We remain committed to making everyone’s role and contribution in the administration of justice conducive to the delivery of effective and meaningful access to justice.

Both these pieces of legislation form part of a transformation policy package geared towards Government’s commitment to further strengthen the independence and broaden the accessibility of the courts, to all the people.

Yet it has hardly made the news, why the silence, the voice of the legal profession has hardly been heard, and that of the opposition even less. Why, is it because it is good news and therefore don’t sell, or is it because it is not popular to be seen to be supporting any initiative of government, not even if it is a constitutional imperative!

Access to justice is being promoted by, amongst others, the building of new courts the conversion of existing branch courts to full-service courts, the establishment of Small Claims Courts, the re-demarcation of magisterial districts, the Review of the Civil Justice System and the work of Legal Aid SA.

The introduction of Court-connected mediation which is part of the Civil Justice Reform Programme, is part of the transformation initiatives the success of which will depend on the contribution of attorneys and the legal profession in general
With regard to legal aid government has bugeted R1 360.7 billion for Legal Aid South Africa to provide legal representation at the state’s expense to eligible people in terms of the Constitution. 64 Justice Centres and 64 Satellite Offices have been established, with a 100% coverage of criminal courts, and 428 653 new legal matters requiring legal representation in both criminal and civil courts. The Legal Aid Advice Line dealt with 46 025 Advice matters.

With regard to infrastructure development the High Court in Polokwane, together with the Mpumalanga High Court in Nelspruit, will complete this Government’s commitment to establish High Courts in each of the nine provinces, thereby bringing justice closer to the communities it must serve. New Courts have recently been constructed in Ntuzuma in KZN and in Kathlehong and Tsakane in Gauteng. Of the 90 Branch Courts countrywide, 24 have now been proclaimed as full services courts.

Equality Courts have been extended to all High and Lower Courts. The challenge is now to ensure that more people use them. Progressive lawyers can play an important role in this regard.

The programme of establishing a Small Claims Court in in each and every one of South Africa’s 387 magisterial districts is on track. We have already passed the half-way mark. To date we have 268 established Small Claims Courts, 87 of which have been established during the last four (4) years, with the great majority in the rural areas. I would like to appeal to the BLA to encourage all of its members who practiced for a period of 5 years or more to volunteer their services as commissioners.

With regard to the transformation of the judiciary, as outlandish as it might seem as we meet here today, but in 1994, less than a generation ago, 160 of the 165 judges on the bench were white men. White male judges were, to use biblical language, fourscore times two in number. The heavy onus of making the judiciary appear to resemble South Africa lay on the shoulders of three black men and two white women. As for black women, well….

Today, 100 black men and 49 black women, 71 white men and 21 white women serve our nation as judges. They do so knowing that they are part of a judiciary that is coming closer to reflecting the racial and gender composition of South Africa, as is required by our Constitution.

Similar progress has been made in addressing race and gender imbalances in Magistrates Courts. Of the 1661 magistrates, 974 are black and 687 are white, 647 are women and 1014 are men.

Whilst this represents significant progress, there is still much to be done – especially regarding the gender imbalances in the upper echelons of the judiciary, the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Appeal and the ranks of the Judges President.

However, the untransformed state of the legal profession remains a stumbling block to the further transformation of the judiciary as well as to greater access to justice.

The legal profession is a key provider of services that promote access to justice and it also constitutes a pool from which the judiciary is appointed.

Of the 2 384 advocates (as at April 2012) who fell under the umbrella of the General Council of the Bar, 1 367 were white men, 366 white women, 295 African men, 89 African women, 47 coloured men, 37 coloured women, 114 Indian men and 69 Indian women.

The picture becomes even more skewed when one examines the profile of the 473 senior advocates (or “silks” as they are called – because of their right to wear silk robes): 382 white men, 20 white women, 29 African men, 4 African women, 9 coloured men, 1 coloured woman, 24 Indian men and 4 Indian women.

Traditionally, it is from the ranks of these “silks” that judges are appointed.

However it is encouraging that there are emerging trends that indicate that there are other new sources that increasingly feed into the esteemed human resources of the bench in our courts. These mainly include magistrates and attorneys who have demonstrated through their solid track records that they too can serve with distinction on the benches of our High Courts. This positive policy development has further enhanced our opportunities and capabilities for increasing considerably the number of judge candidates qualifying for the bench of the High Courts and thereby easing the burden on the Bar.

The appointment of acting judges and magistrates also creates a further opportunity to gain invaluable experience. On average, the Minister appoints 750 acting judges per annum, whilst I make on average 2 200 acting appointments of magistrates in the same period. These appointments provide opportunities for advancing our transformation agenda. However, for this objective to be realized it will be necessary to develop a comprehensive framework through which candidates for acting appointments may be drawn from a sustainable pool developed under the auspices of the South African Judicial Education Institute.

The attorneys’ profession is marginally more representative. As at June 2011 there were 20,077 practicing attorneys of whom 36% were black and 64% were white. Women constituted 34% and men 66%.

These statistics must be viewed against the reality that South Africa has a population of just over 50.6 million with an unemployment rate 25.2% or 4,6 million people.

South Africa’s population is served by approximately 2 384 practicing advocates, of which 1 428 (more than half) are located within Gauteng, whilst the Attorney’s profession comprise of approximately 21 463 practitioners. These figures translate to 1 lawyer in private practice for every 2121 persons. Of the 11 435 law firms in the country, 27 law firms have more than 50 attorneys (the so called large law firms), 11 210 law firms have between 1 and 9 attorneys (98% of all firms) and 7800 law firms are served by sole practitioners (68% of all law firms).

If you consider that the so called large law firms constitutes less than 10% of the law firms in the country, the small law firms and sole practitioners may well be viewed – at least in the eyes of the poor and the marginalised – as the “heart and soul” of the legal profession, especially in civil matters.

Interestingly, the profile of law students is much more reflective of South African society. In 2011 of all first year law students, 78% were black, 22% white, 54% were women and 46% men. In the same year, of the 3 751 LLB graduates, 68% were black, 32% white, 59 % women and 41% men.

The question is to what extent these more reflective demographics will be carried through into the profession and what stumbling blocks exist in this regard. The recently released research conducted of indicates that things will not change by themselves. Change is pain, and it will not come by itself.

Another important area of focus is the allocation of state legal work. I wish to reiterate the Government’s commitment to achieving the target it set for the allocation of briefs to attorneys and advocates. The policy on briefing patterns must not be seen in isolation but as part of initiatives that will culminate in the comprehensive transformation of the state’s legal services. These initiatives are aimed at broadening the pool of legal practitioners who are briefed by the state to ensure a fair representation of black and female practitioners consistent with the racial, gender and geographic demographics of our society.

The scarcity of black and female practitioners in the pool of practitioners who continue to dominate constitutional and other high-profile litigation cases has a consequential effect on the slow pace of the transformation of the judiciary. Many attorneys may feel that they would benefit less in the 65% target we have set for the allocation of briefs by the state as much of the attorneys work is carried out by state attorneys. Briefs by the State to attorneys firms are currently limited to correspondent matters and where there may be a conflict of interest. Contrary to popular belief this Government has delivered on its commitment in terms of briefs to the previously disadvantaged practitioners.

Of the 8854 briefs to advocates over the past three financial years (2010/11; 2011/12 and 2012/13), 7405 briefs (or 83,63%) went to black persons and 2 778 briefs (or 31,37%) went to women. The Minister will elaborate more during the budget vote next week. It is important that they view the allocation of state briefs in the context of the entire of the transformation of the legal profession. In this context it is important to consider the changes that will be brought to the State Attorney’s Act through the introduction of the Solicitor-General dispensation.

The Legal Practice Bill, 2012, currently before Parliament, is, of course, a central part in the transformation imperative of a legal profession that embraces the values underpinning the Constitution.

The Legal practice Bill presents a unique opportunity for the legal profession to shape its own future and also build a firm foundation for transformation of the judiciary. A transformed legal profession is the foundation upon which the judiciary can be transformed as members of the judiciary are, in the main, drawn from the legal profession.

We have come from far with the Bill. We acknowledge the contribution of the profession in shaping the Bill. The legal profession is encouraged to also use the parliamentary process underway to further enrich the legislation which we view as one of the instruments that promote access to justice.

The Legal Practice Bill proposes an incremental approach as far as its implementation is concerned. A Transitional South African Legal Practice Council (the Transitional Council) will fulfill a key role in the first phase of implementation, paving the way for the establishment of the permanent South African Legal Practice Council and putting systems and procedures in place for the second and subsequent phases of the implementation process.

Some of the main goals of the Bill, as set out in the purpose clause, are to:
(a) provide a legislative framework for the fundamental transformation and restructuring of the legal profession that embraces the values underpinning the Constitution;
(b) broaden access to justice:

(i) by putting in place a mechanism to determine fees chargeable by legal practitioners for legal services rendered that are affordable and within the reach of the citizenry;
(ii) by putting in place measures to provide for the rendering of community service by candidate legal practitioners and practicing legal practitioners;
(iii) by putting in place measures that provide equal opportunities for all aspirant legal practitioners in order to have a legal profession that reflects the demographics of the Republic;

(c) Create a single unified statutory body (a South African Legal Practice Council) (the Council) to regulate the affairs of all legal practitioners in pursuit of the goal of a unified, accountable, efficient and independent legal profession;
(d) Protect and promote the public interest; and
(e) Protect and promote the interests of consumers of legal services by the establishment of an Office of Legal Services Ombud.

I must admit that I remain perplexed at some of the principle objections to the Bill, one of which is that the appointment of three fit and proper persons by the Minister to the South African Legal Practice Council will for one or other reason impact on the independence of this statutory body and make it a body controlled by Government.

How is this possible?

The Council consists of 21 members of which 16 are legal practitioners appointed by the legal profession; one a teacher of law or legal academic nominated by the law teachers, legal academics or organisations representing law teachers or legal academics, and one person nominated by Legal Aid South Africa. Three government appointees outgunning, outsmarting or outvoting 18 members of the Council, of which 16 are legal practitioners! I think not. And, on a lighter note, I am also sure that no amount of name dropping by the ministerial appointees will impress the representatives of the legal profession.

Regrettably some of those who have done well under the current rules consider government attempts to equalise the playing field as akin to government tyranny. They project themselves as victims and what is good for them is good for the rest of society. Their view is based on an ingrained ideological tradition derived from a colonial model of the legal profession controlled by elites. Our Constitution does not provide a right for an elite to carry out decisions in an opaque way for their own benefit or permanently engage in their vices that keeps out others from ascending the ladders of the legal profession.

It is Orwellian to find individuals with no human rights back ground, some of whom fought for apartheid now casting themselves as defenders of the Constitution. In reality, their views are informed by self-interest. The BLA needs to be engaged in deconstructing these arguments. Unless your voice is heard, you cede the narrative to the forces whose voices dominate about the way the legal profession or for that matter society should operate.

The Legal Practice Bill does not provide for a unified profession. However, it is a debate that has again been raised with the introduction of the Legal Practice Bill. The fact is that the Right of Appearance in Courts Act No. 62 of 1995 had already laid the basis of a single, unified legal profession. The Act, which grants attorneys the right of appearance in the Superior Courts still has to realise its full potential. Another recent legislation that introduced fundamental changes in the legal profession is the Magistrates Courts Amendment Act of 2008 which conferred civil jurisdiction to the Regional Court. Similarly, this provides opportunity for attorneys to take on matters which were the preserve of their counterparts in the Advocates profession and by so doing, further expand access to justice for ordinary citizens. These legislative interventions are also yet to realise their full potential.

The Legal Services Sector Charter, which was adopted by the legal profession in 2007 characterises an important trajectory in the transformation of the legal profession. It constitute a pledge by the profession itself, to advance the transformation of the legal profession by creating a conducive and enabling environment for the equalisation of opportunities of access to the profession for aspirant lawyers and access to legal services for the poor and vulnerable members of society alike. These noble guarantees have yet to be realised and the Legal Practice Bill once enacted, will give the elements enshrined in the charter the required force of law.

Society needs to hear your voice. The bench needs to hear your voice. Government needs to hear your voice. A vibrant and engaged legal profession is an essential institution in building a healthy democracy.

You have to be fully engaged in dealing with pressing problems such as legal reform across the board, government malfeasance, sexual assaults on women and children, social justice, environmental issues and the myriad other challenges of a complex society that we live in.

Let’s summon all of ourselves to resolve to transform the way we think about our role in society as lawyers. You have a special obligation to carry on that struggle; we must collectively forge the intellect, the compassion, concern and discipline to transform our society.

To conclude with the words of President Mandela:
“We know it is a matter of fact that we have it in ourselves as Africans to change all this. We must, in action, assert our will to do so. We must, in action, say that there is no obstacle big enough to stop us from bringing about a new African renaissance.”