In discharging its mandate the Office of the Chief Justice shall be guided by the Constitution, other Legislation and policies that constitute the legal framework for the establishment of the office.
2.1 Constitutional Mandates
The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 provides the independence of the judiciary, protects judicial independence by prohibiting any interference with the functioning of the courts. It further imposes a duty on organs of state to assist and protect the courts to ensure, amongst other things, their independence, impartiality and efficiency. Furthermore the Constitution as amended in 2013 formalises the Chief Justice as the head of the judiciary and entrusts him with the responsibility for the establishment and monitoring of norms and standards for the judicial functions of all courts. It also designates the Constitutional Court as the highest court in all matters.
In order to advance the transformation imperatives of the Constitution, Schedule 6 to the Constitution provides for the rationalization of all courts and all relevant legislation with the view to establishing a judicial system suited to the requirements of the Constitution.
The Constitution furthermore provides that, after a National Election, the Chief Justice is required to convene the first sitting of the National Assembly and to preside over the election of the Speaker.
2.2 Legislative mandates
The Superior Court Act reaffirms the Chief Justice as the head of the Judiciary responsible for the establishment and monitoring of norms and standards for the judicial functions of all courts. The Act further empowers the Chief Justice to issue written protocols or directives, or give guidance or advice, to judicial officers – (a) in respect of norms and standards for the performance of the judicial functions; and (b) regarding any matter affecting the dignity, accessibility, effectiveness, efficiency or functioning of the courts.
The mandate of the Office of the Chief Justice emanates from a number of statutes including but not limited to the following:-
South African Judicial Education Institute Act, 2008
The Chief Justice is the Chairperson of the SAJEI Council. SAJEI was established to provide judicial education to Judicial Officers.
Superior Courts Act, 2013
The Chief Justice exercises responsibility over the establishment and monitoring of norms and standards of judicial functions for all courts. The Chief Justice may issue written protocols/directives/ guidance/advice in relation to implementation of norms and standards.
The Act also regulates the allocation of financial resources to the Office of the Chief Justice and designates the Secretary General as the Accounting Officer.
Public Finance Management Act, 1999 (Act no 1 of 1999 as amended)
The Office of the Chief Justice is governed by the PFMA which regulates financial management in national and provincial government institutions.
Judicial Service Commission Act, 1994
The Chief Justice is the Chairperson of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) which inter alia is responsible for the recommendation of candidates for judicial appointments and complaints lodged against Judges. The JSC secretariat, located within the OCJ, renders support to the Chief Justice in his capacity as Chairperson of the JSC.
Electoral Commission Act, 1996
The Act mandates the Chief Justice to convene and chair a panel to process nominations for the Electoral Commission Board.
2.3 Policy Mandates
The Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ) is a newly established National Department proclaimed by the President of the Republic of South Africa in gazette number 335500 on the 23 August 2010. Subsequent to the Proclamation of the OCJ as a National Department, the Minister for Public Service and Administration made a determination regarding the purpose and objectives of the OCJ as follows:-
>> To ensure that the Chief Justice can properly execute his mandate as both the head of the Constitutional Court and the head of the Judiciary;
>> To enhance the institutional, administrative and financial independence of the OCJ; and
>> To improve organisational governance and accountability, and the effective and efficient use of resources.
Furthermore as part of the transitional arrangements the relevant policies of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development shall continue to be of full effect to the OCJ until such time that the OCJ develops its own policies.