LAW | CAPE TOWN 

Cape Town’s sluggish judges

One judge has six judgments outstanding for more than a year

Photo of plaque at Western Cape High Court
Sixteen reserved judgments at the Western Cape High Court are late. Seven are more than a year late. Photo: Masixole Feni
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At least 11 judgments in the Western Cape High Court are months overdue. One acting judge has six judgments that have been outstanding for a year.

Prompted by concerns raised by litigants and lawyers, GroundUp looked into the problem of tardy judgments. According to norms laid out for judges in 2014 by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, judges should hand down their judgments “no later than three months after the last hearing.”

According to the list of reserved (outstanding) judgments in the Cape High Court for 30 November, 16 judgments have been reserved for three months or more. But we list here only the 11 judgments that have been outstanding for more than two recess periods. These breaks are supposed to be used by judges to write their judgments.

Date reserved Judge Case Case #
22 Aug 2016 Acting Judge Kose South African Reserve Bank & 2 Others v Dennis Van Reenen N.O. & 4 Others 15453/14
29 Jul 2016 Acting Judge Kose Community Life GmbH v Algoasec (Pty) Limited t/a Imatec South Africa (Pty) Ltd 13363/16
6 Sep 2016 Acting Judge Kose PS Van Zyl N.O. v Keith Getz & 1 Other 18213/09
30 Sep 2016 Acting Judge Kose K.E. Oelz v M.F. Oelz 6912/13;21450/14
8 Nov 2016 Acting Judge Kose Agricultural Research Council v Leslie Bergh & 5 Others 22891/15
14 Nov 2016 Judge Desai Immobiliari Trading CC v Leslie Bergh & 5 Others 7705/16
23 Nov 2016 Acting Judge Kose Daniel Terblanche N.O. & 1 other v Ciriaglo (Pty) Ltd & 9 others 9382/16
3 Feb 2017 Judge Desai University of Stellenbosch v Master of the High Court & 1 other 2788/15
19 May 2017 Judge Desai (with Judge Mantame and Judge Nuku) M.N. Ebrahim v C. Simonsz 20243/14
15 Jun 2017 Judge Ndita (with Acting Judge Magona) Phumeza Mlungwana & 9 others v The State 13665/16
19 Jun 2017 Judge Bozalek Artur FP Dias v Marina Petropolus & others 22639/09
List of reserved judgments in Cape High Court that as of 30 November 2017, have been outstanding for more than two recesses. A further five judgments are past the three-month deadline set in the judicial norms and standards.

Besides the judge with six reserved judgments over a year old, one judge is listed three times in the list and two other judges once each. Judges are expected to list their reserved judgments but there is no formal process to ensure they do. It’s possible that more judgments are overdue.

The judicial norms also say:

  • Judges must run their cases efficiently, effectively and quickly.

  • Every effort must be made to make sure that courts have enough judges.

  • Heads of court are responsible, on a daily basis, for monitoring the performance of judges.

  • The Chief Justice has overall responsibility for monitoring the performance of judges.

We sent requests for comment to Judge John Hlophe, the president of the Western Cape High Court, as well as the four judges in the list above (via the Judge President, and one directly via her email). We also sent a request for comment to Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. We have received no responses.

Justice in South Africa is slow. Police and prosecutors are frequently blamed, usually correctly, for cases being delayed. But some judges are also bottlenecks in the system.

CORRECTION: The table, because of a transcription error on our part, originally had a non-writing (i.e. second) judge listed on the wrong case. The judge in question was however correctly listed on the line before. The article has been corrected.

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