On 31 July – 1 August , the JIFA team, consisting of Dame Linda Dobbs and Amy Sinclair, conducted legal researcher training for a group 11 students.
FOR most participants at the core judicial skills week just ended at the University of Cape Town, the idea of an “integrity branch” of government was a novel one. It was briefly introduced to the gathering of judges from across the continent by UCT law professor Hugh Corder. Over the years, his regular discussions with judges at courses run by the Judicial Institute for Africa have been peppered with challenging new concepts, and this time was no exception.
Corder said that academics and judges in a number of countries were debating whether the time had come to broaden our understanding of government and add another branch to the long-established view that there were “three arms”: the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.
Speaking to Jifa after his presentation, Corder said he believed the idea of an “integrity branch” held great potential. He had been part of the drafting of SA’s post-apartheid constitutions, and all those involved in the processes “were very aware of the democratic deficit” – this a reference to the problem that for most people democracy is something experienced only at election time.
OF all the data unearthed by the research organization, AfroBarometer, and presented to the judges attending the recent core skills week in Cape Town, none is more surprising than this: though levels of mistrust of the courts are high across all the African countries surveyed, no fewer than 72 percent of participants believed that the courts have the right to make decisions that everyone must obey.
Against the widespread perception of court officials as corrupt, and the low levels of “trust” in the courts, the contrasting view that acknowledges judicial legitimacy is both startling and a possible basis for court-driven improvement.
The data, outlined for the judge-participants by AfroBarometer’s Sibusiso Nkomo, started the week’s work with some unexpected electricity: most of his audience were alarmed by the figures that showed the serious lack of trust in the court system reported by people surveyed in 36 African countries.
JUDGE Joseph Murangira was recently hailed in Jifa’s Quarterly Review as an unsung hero of judicial independence. A parliamentary committee, and then parliament itself, questioned a judgment that he had delivered (and that had been approved by the appellate courts), and threatened to “veto” it. The parliamentary authorities also made disparaging remarks about him and questioning his integrity, and the judge decided to sue parliament through the attorney-general. The full constitutional court bench found in his favour and awarded him significant damages. Murangira attended Jifa’s core-skills week in Cape Town, and was able to explain what had happened to his fellow judges from all over Africa. He told Jifa he had been heartened by the support he had received from his own colleagues in Uganda and from the judge-participants in the core-skills week.Please let us know at Jifa if you are aware of any other judge under pressure or of any case where judicial independence is under threat.