An ‘important purpose of section 34 [of the Constitution] is to guarantee the protection of the judicial process to persons who have disputes that can be resolved by law’ and that the right of access to court is ‘foundational to the stability of an orderly society. It ensures the peaceful, regulated and institutionalised mechanisms to resolve disputes, without resorting to self-help. The right of access to court is a bulwark against vigilantism, and the chaos and anarchy which it causes. Construed in this context of the rule of law and the principle against self-help in particular, access to court is indeed of cardinal importance’.The right guaranteed s34 would be rendered meaningless if court orders could be ignored with impunity:the underlying purposes of the right — and particularly that of avoidance of self-help — would be undermined if litigants could decide which orders they wished to obey and which they wished to ignore.
MEDIA STATEMENT ON THE IMPENDING STRIKE ACTION BY MAGISTRATES
15 March 20133
THERE is currently a matter before the Constitutional Court (see accompanying note below) in relation to the dispute over salary increases for Magistrates and as such; as a Justice of the Constitutional Court, the Chief Justice is not in a position to comment on the matter – pending its finalisation by the Court.
However, the Office of the Chief Justice can confirm that the Chief Justice is in possession of correspondence informing him of the impending strike action by Magistrates on Monday, 18 March 2013.
The Office of the Chief Justice wishes to place on record also that should the strike action materialise; it would be regrettable and that Magistrates would jeopardise the welfare of the very people to whom they are obliged by the Constitution to render a service.
It should also be stated that the Office of the Chief Justice is satisfied that the Magistrates’ Commission, under the able leadership of Judge Francis Legodi; has put in place adequate measures to deal with any disruptions that may arise from the impending strike action.
The Office of the Chief Justice wishes to also state for the record that there are existing and effective official channels through which disputes can be attended to and that the Chief Justice is committed to both the well-being of all Judicial Officers and to ensuring speedy resolution of all matters that affect them and their conditions of service; all within the ambit and dictate of the law.
Lulama Luti; Director: Media Relations, Office of the Chief Justice
Tel: +27 (0) 11 359 7537; Cell: +27 (0) 76 424 0667; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTE TO EDITORS / JOURNALISTS
On 19 February 2013 the Constitutional Court heard an application for confirmation and variation of an order of constitutional invalidity and a conditional application for leave to appeal against a decision of the North Gauteng High Court (High Court) by the Association of Regional Magistrates of South Africa (ARMSA).
The application followed on the 26 November 2010 decision by President Jacob Zuma to increase the remuneration of Regional Magistrates and Regional Court Presidents by 5% with effect from 1 April 2010 – based on a recommendation from the Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers (Remuneration Commission) for a 7% increase.
ARMSA then applied to the High Court to review and set aside the decision of the President. ARMSA contended that the decision by the President (i) was a reduction in remuneration; (ii) was procedurally unfair; (iii) adopted a “one size fits all” approach in relation to the various public office bearers; and (iv) was unreasonable and irrational because it failed to take into account relevant considerations.
ARMSA sought to have the matter remitted to the President for reconsideration subject to an invitation for representations from Regional Magistrates and Regional Court Presidents. The High Court granted part of the relief sought by ARMSA.
It held that the President’s decision was not an administrative action but was reviewable under the principle of legality. The High Court upheld only one ground in relation to the “one size fits all approach”.
ARMSA then applied to the Constitutional Court for confirmation and variation of the High Court order. It also applied for leave to appeal against part of the High Court’s order. It argued that the matter raised a clear constitutional issue, that there were reasonable prospects of success and it that it was in the interest of justice to grant leave to appeal to the Constitutional Court directly.
The Remuneration Commission opposed the application and sought leave to appeal against the whole judgment and the order of the High Court.
The matter was heard in the Constitutional Court on 19 February 2013 and judgment was reserved.
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