The justice system is showing signs of rot

Judges and lawyers who care need to stop it

By GroundUp Editors

7 June 2022

Photo of Cape High Court

There are still many good judges doing sterling work, but the justice system is rotting. For example, why has John Hlophe been able to stay Judge President of the Western Cape High Court (pictured) for 22 years? Archive photo: Liezl Human

We are fortunate that during the Jacob Zuma presidency, the judiciary remained largely “uncaptured”. But for a long time there have been warning signs of rot setting in.

The fault lies not only with judges, but with the justice system – from failures by the police through to the Legal Practice Council, the Judicial Service Commission, the Office of the Chief Justice and the Minister of Justice.

Here are a few examples we’ve either reported, investigated or are directly involved in:

Of course, we also frequently report judgments in which courts have worked, judges have diligently applied their minds to complicated ethical problems and reached decisions that serve justice. But there are many other examples of failure.

The situation will get much worse unless good lawyers and judges, who surely constitute the majority, start to take action to reverse the rot. They need to ally with organisations like Judges Matter and speak out more frequently when their colleagues and institutions let the justice system down.