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President Ramaphosa Approves Judicial Matters Amendment Act, Enacting Key Reforms

President Cyril Ramaphosa has approved the Judicial Matters Amendment Act, 2023. This move is seen as a big step forward in making South Africa’s justice system work better. The Act changes many laws related to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. It’s a significant moment because it’s a major change in how the law works.

Among the notable amendments are provisions empowering the Chief Master with expanded powers, duties, and functions. This enhancement will enable the Chief Master to exercise greater oversight over the Masters of the High Court, ultimately leading to improved service delivery to the public and legal practitioners.

Another key amendment introduced allows the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, following due consultation, to determine certain categories of offences that, if an admission of guilt fine is paid, would not result in the accused receiving a criminal record. This move aims to provide relief for individuals who may have previously acquired a criminal record for specified offences.

In response to the challenges posed by corruption, the Act includes measures recommended by the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption, and Fraud in the Public Sector. A new offence is created, targeting the failure of private sector members or state-owned entities to prevent corrupt activities, aligning with efforts to combat corruption and bolster accountability.

Additionally, the Act addresses concerns regarding false declarations in support of applications for protection orders under the Domestic Violence Act, imposing penalties for such actions while facilitating the application process by enabling submissions without affidavits.

Furthermore, the Act repeals common law relating to defamation, responding to international and local stakeholders’ concerns about the impact of such offences on journalists. However, it’s important to note that civil remedies for defamation remain applicable.

While these amendments may seem technical, their collective impact is expected to significantly enhance service delivery, efficiency, and responsiveness within the justice system. President Ramaphosa’s approval of the Judicial Matters Amendment Act underscores the government’s commitment to fostering a fair and transparent legal framework that serves the needs of all South Africans.

Source: The Presidency Republic of South Africa

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