Today, on 5 September 2019, the Western Cape High Court handed down judgment in Sonke Gender Justice / President RSA and others. Judge Boqwana declared unconstitutional the provisions in the Correctional Services Act (111 of 1998) which require that the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS) is i) dependent on the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) for its budget, ii) accountable to DCS for all monies received, and iii) that disciplinary measures concerning the CEO are to be handled by the National Commissioner. She has declared that Parliament will have 24 months in which to rectify the legislative defects. The remedy contained in this judgment will become binding and effective once it has been confirmed by the Constitutional Court.
The background to this matter is as follows: On 13 December 2016, Sonke Gender Justice and Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) filed an application in the Western Cape High Court seeking a declaration of invalidity in relation to provisions in the Correctional Services Act. The impetus for the case was the actual and perceived lack of independence and capacity of JICS, which, in turn, impaired its ability to function as South Africa’s national prison oversight body. The impugned provisions, it was argued, compromise JICS’ existence as a functional, independent, and accessible body fundamental to the protection and promotion of inmates’ rights. That matter was heard on 6 June.
Sonke and LHR welcome today’s decision, and consider it a major victory for not only us as civil society organisations, but for JICS itself as well as all the detainees that this judgment will have a positive impact on.
We hope that this judgment will see swift implementation, as we anticipate the great beneficial effects that a more independent JICS will have on the safety and wellbeing of inmates in South Africa.