The chairperson of the Magistrates Commission, Judge Elton Hoff, has reiterated that the huge backlog of cases before courts remains a huge concern.
He attributed courtroom backlog to some judicial officers who are lazy.
Hoff made this observation when he officially opened a week-long conference for magistrates underway in Rundu on Monday.
He said one of the major challenges facing the judiciary that has also been experienced before and will be there in future, is the backlog of cases. Referring to a retreat for the judiciary held early this year, he reiterated, “You all may be aware that this topic was discussed recently at Okahandja where a committee was established in order to consider it and to suggest possible solutions, which I hope, will soon be shared with you.”Hoff noted that it appears that some magistrates are not in effective control of their court rolls, saying that magistrates must, and he is sure are able to, significantly contribute – through proper control – to the long overdue reduction of cases.
“I wonder how many magistrates are in possession of diaries, and if they are, whether those diaries are properly utilised, since the keeping of a diary is a method through which a magistrate can control a court roll on a daily basis,” he stated.
“It was during the discussion at Okahandja that one of the divisional magistrates identified the attitudes of some, I emphasise ‘some’ magistrates, which certainly indirectly contribute towards the backlog of cases and which bedevil the working environment in some magistrate’s offices,” he stated.
“In addition to this, there is a lackadaisical attitude of some magistrates towards their responsibilities,” he told the judicial officers. “I am fully aware that there are various factors and role players, which may impact upon and contribute towards backlogs, but as I stated then, I would like to repeat my point of view that the underutilisation of court hours is a factor which certainly contributes towards this undesirable situation,” further stated Hoff.
“As you may be aware, the Constitution of the Republic of Namibia was amended towards the end of last year inter alia to make provision for the Chief Justice as head of the Judiciary. This has a consequence that the Chief Justice, in so far as the magistracy is concerned, is now responsible to supervise and monitor the magistrate’s courts in particular court proceedings and court process and the effectiveness thereof as well as to deal with administrative matters,” he further stated.
Hoff also alluded to the fact that the magistrates may be aware that the judiciary, including the magistracy, has for a considerable period in the past, lamented the judiciary’s lack of control over its finances and independence in the fullest sense. But this, he said, has now changed, as the judiciary through the Office of the Judiciary, will in future have the much-anticipated added responsibility of control over its own budget.
Magistrates are required, as all judicial officers, to give a judgment at the conclusion of a trial.
“That is one of your main duties and it is trite that in order to determine, whether or not you have applied your mind judicially relating to matters of fact and of law, is to be found in your reasons for such judgment. In this regard, the art of judgment writing becomes a necessary tool in which the clarity of your reasoning will be reflected,” he said.
The conference is being attended by all magistrates from all corners of Namibia and it is aimed at building capacity, as well as to reflect on major strategic issues including policies.
The Chairperson of the Magistrates Commission is accompanied by Chief Justice Peter Shivute as well as other judges of the High Court, who will also make presentations.
The Deputy Minister of Justice, Lidwina Shapwa is expected to deliver the closing remarks on Friday.