By Lwazi Nongauza
The South African justice system is facing a mounting backlog of court cases as a result of disruptions caused by Covid-19. While this has not been a new problem in the country, the coronavirus is worsening the situation.
In an effort to understand this, Active Leadership conducted an interview with Irvin Chauke, a young lawyer and social change driver. Chauke has outlined some of the current and long term legal implications of Coronavirus for the South African judiciary.
Chauke said: “An independent judiciary is one of the most important pillars of any country’s democracy, it enhances citizens’ accountability, and makes sure that State conduct and legislation is just, reasonable and fair. For a while South Africa has not been immune to that but the ongoing Coronavirus is threatening that mandate.”
The young lawyer also went on to state that due to the high inequality in South Africa, ordinary citizens are the ones who suffer the most from injustice, the situation worsens due to the unavailability of the judiciary.
While addressing the current pressures and complications for the legal fraternity, Chauke said: “It is to do certain things that require court stamped documents when the court is only operational from criminal postponements and urgent civil matters. So we are very worried at this point. It is a privilege that some of us get paid enough to be able to negotiate through this tough time.”
The boy from Orange farm highlighted the painful consequences for most South Africans now and into the future.
“I can already tell you right now that in the near future or let us call it life after Coronavirus, South Africans might be faced with unrest, episodes of disgruntled judiciary victims with possible rhetoric slogans like ‘Justice delayed is justice denied.’ I foresee this happening because of a backlog, some cases which will be deemed minor will probably not be given adequate attention. Thus, ordinary citizens will also feel the burden of the ongoing Coronavirus even when it is no longer with us.”
“For Young legal professionals like myself, coronavirus is temporarily robbing us of the opportunity to fight to bring justice in the world.”
Ultimately’ the bigger effect of Coronavirus in the South African judiciary is far-reaching. The backlog might lead to many cases not being well adjudicated because of time (unwittingly there will be a lot of secondary victimization to those who might find themselves on the end of the stick of such processes, said Chauke.
This is a story from the ACTIVATE! Change Drivers Network. A network of over 4200 diverse young people driving change for the public good across South Africa. Members of this network, Activators, are connected by their passion, skills, sense of self and spark to address tough challenges.