Provinces have final say on admissions – ruling

A provincial government has the final say on the number of pupils that can be admitted to a school, the Constitutional Court ruled yesterday, according to a BDlive report. ‘While the school governing body determines admission policy, individual decisions on admission are taken only provisionally at school level by the principal acting under the authority of the head of department,’ the court said in what the report says is seen as landmark judgment.

‘Where the need arises, section 5(9) provides a safety valve, which allows the MEC to consider admission refusals and overturn an admission decision taken at school level,’ the court ruled. The report notes the matter came to the Constitutional Court after Rivonia Primary School refused to admit a child to grade 1 when the parents applied in 2010 because the school was full. The Gauteng government instructed the school to admit the pupil, contrary to the school’s admission policy. The SCA found last year that the Gauteng government’s instruction to the school was unlawful, and that a school’s governing body had the authority to determine the school’s capacity. The judgment overturned a High Court decision, which held that the overall authority to determine school capacity rested with provincial education departments. The matter subsequently went to the Constitutional Court.

Acting Constitutional Court Judge Nonkosi Mhlantla wrote the majority judgment. She said: ‘The power of the governing body must also be understood within the broader constitutional scheme to make education progressively available and accessible to everyone.’

A report in The Times notes the court found against the Education Department head, saying he had not acted in a procedurally fair way by physically forcing the child into the class. Both parties were criticised for not working together in a spirit of ‘co-operative governance’. ‘Trouble starts when we become more absorbed in staking out the power to have the final say rather than in fostering partnerships to meet the education needs of children,’ the judge said. The chairman of Rivonia Primary’s governing body, Rickson Mboweni, said he was ‘disappointed’ by the ruling but pleased that all further actions of the department, when intervening in an admission dispute, had to be ‘procedurally fair’.

MEC for Education in Gauteng Province and Others v Governing Body of the Rivonia Primary School & Others for a full report.

Court blocks sex register listing

The recent court appearance of a 14-year-old boy who raped younger boys and stabbed a 12-year-old girl has put the spotlight on whether child offenders should be treated differently to adults. The case highlights the dilemma of weighing up the clashing rights of child sex offenders and their victims. The case came to the Cape Town High Court earlier this year on review from the magistrate’s court, which had found the boy guilty of raping three boys, aged six and seven, and of attacking the girl.

At the centre of the matter was whether he should be listed in the national register of sexual offenders. Two weeks ago, the high court found that the law prescribing that all sexual offenders be registered was unconstitutional.

A section of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act prohibits a court from taking into account whether the offence involved kissing or rape, and whether there was consent, and does not allow offenders to make representations as to why they should not be registered. The court gave parliament 18 months in which to amend the section and send it to the Constitutional Court for ratification. It said including a child’s name in the register had “far-reaching implications”, including stigmatisation, and affected the child’s rights to privacy and dignity.

Morgan Courtenay, a lawyer for the Centre for Child Law, which joined the case as an interested party, said one of the “severe” effects of being registered was that it limited employment opportunities. People listed on the register would not be allowed to work in the same environment as children, and in certain instances offenders have to disclose their convictions to employers. They might not be allowed to adopt children.

Though the aim of the register is to protect children and the mentally disabled from sex predators, Courtenay said children should not be treated like adults because they were still developing.

“Generally, they do not understand the consequences of their actions and should be treated differently to adults, who can differentiate between right and wrong,” he said, suggesting that the register be limited to adults.

Kenneth Klopper, the boy’s lawyer, agreed. He argued that children were not mentally or physically “on a par” with adults, which is why the law makes special provision for them, with a focus on rehabilitation.

Cecil Tsegarie, who represented Justice Minister Jeff Radebe , argued that the register should include all sex offenders.

Tsegarie said this extended to the boy because he had “readily admitted that he is a sexual predator of children in stating in his plea that he lusts for sex with children”.

But the high court found that the listing of a child in the register should be considered case by case.

Justice Department spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga said there were over 5000 offenders on the register, most of them adults.

Until the Constitutional Court rules, no child sex offender will be listed, Tsegarie said.

Click here for full Report: IVAN JOHANNES VS STATE High Crt Judgmnt

OHCHR 2012 Report

The 2012 Report of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights has been released. The thematic issues dealt with include impunity and the rule of law and violence and security. It also contains a number of case studies on African countries in relation to torture and arbitrary detention.

The report is available at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/ohchrreport2012/web_en/allegati/downloads/1_Whole_OHCHR_Report_2012.pdf

Minister defends Legal Practice Bill Published in: Legalbrief Today

Category: Policy
Issue No: 3283

Justice and Constitutional Development Deputy Minister Andries Nel has refuted allegations that provisions in the Legal Practice Bill that seek to empower the Minister to appoint three members of the proposed Legal Practice Council out of a total of 21 are a deliberate move by government to control it, reports Legalbrief Policy Watch.

Reiterating government’s commitment to strengthening the independence, dignity, accessibility and effectiveness of the courts as part of the process of transforming the legal profession as a whole, Nel told the annual meeting of the Black Lawyers Association that ‘the untransformed state of the legal profession’ not only constitutes a ‘stumbling block’ to greater access to legal services and justice: it also impedes the further transformation of the judiciary.

While it will be the role of the Minister’s appointees to assist the council in its efforts to address this, they will not be in a position to drive the process. According to the Deputy Minister, ‘elites … who have done well under the current rules’ consider government attempts at transformation as ‘akin to … tyranny’, projecting themselves as victims. SA ‘s Constitution does not give an elite the right to carry out decisions ‘in an opaque way for their own benefit’, or to ‘permanently engage in … vices’ that prevent others from ‘ascending the ladders of the legal profession’, Nel said.
Full Legalbrief Policy Watch report

HRW Report on forced marriages of children

A recently published 95-page Human Rights Watch report documents the consequences of child marriage, the near total lack of protection for victims who try to resist marriage or leave abusive marriages, and the many obstacles they face in accessing mechanisms of redress.

It is based on interviews with 87 girls and women in Central Equatoria, Western Equatoria, and Jonglei states, as well as with government officials, traditional leaders, health care workers, legal and women’s rights experts, teachers, prison officials, and representatives of nongovernmental organizations, the United Nations, and donor organizations.

Read the full report:  Human Rights Watch report This old man can feed us, and you will marry him

News updates

Human Rights Watch World Report: Human Rights Watch has released its 2013 World Report. It raises a number of concerns, including torture, lengthy pre-trial detention and the abuse of civilians by military officials, in respect of a number of African countries. The report is available at https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/wr2013_web.pdf#page=120&zoom=auto,0,251

International Juvenile Justice Observatory (IJJO): The IJJO has released its January 2013 Newletter. It contains an editorial piece on the International Detention Coalition’s research based on children’s experiences in immigration detention, covering a range of countries, including Somalia and Ethiopia. The newsletter is available at http://www.oijj.org/en/sala-prensa/boletines

Access to justice for women: The International Development Law Organisation has released a manual entitled “Accessing Justice: models, strategies and best practices on women’s empowerment.” The manual contains a number of examples and case studies from women in African countries. The manual is available at http://www.idlo.int/Publications/Women-AccesstoJustice.pdf

Police detention monitoring manual released

Police detention monitoring manual: The Association for the Prevention of Torture has released a manual entitled “Monitoring Police Custody – a practical guide.”

The manual is intended to assist anyone carrying out monitoring visits to police stations or other similar detention facilities and preventive activities concerning the police conduct.

The report is available at www.apt.ch/en/resources/monitoring-police-custody-a-practical-guide/

Offensive tweets could mean jail time – lawyer

A lawyer has warned South Africans to be careful about what they tweet, because offensive posts could result in charges being filed – and even a possible jail term of between three and six months.

Emma Sadleir, a social media lawyer at Webber Wentzel, is quoted in a report in The Times as saying Twitter and Facebook users who put up racist or offensive posts could be charged with crimen injuria or face a complaint under the Equality Act.

‘It is not unusual for a person who is found guilty of crimen injuria to be imprisoned in SA,’ Sadleir said. ‘I know of two separate cases in which policemen were called [by] the ‘k’ word and in both instances, the person was sentenced to jail for a period of three to six months.’

Like any other form of publication, online users are held liable for all comments they make on social networks, even when retweeting and sharing posts. The report notes Sadleir said anonymous users were not exempted from criminal charges, or complaints laid with the Equality Court against unfair discrimination, harassment and hate speech. This is because it is possible to get a court order compelling a website to hand over any information like e-mail or an IP address identifying the person who set up the account.

The Right2Know campaign has lashed out at the government for failing to comply with the Promotion of Access to Information Act

Two out of three requests for information through PAIA were refused by government departments last year, spokesperson Murray Hunter points out in a report in The Times.

‘If compliance with the Promotion of Access to Information Act is a litmus test for the state of government and corporate accountability, the signs are worrying,’ he said. According to a 2012 survey by the South African History Archive, which facilitates and tracks Promotion of Access to Information Act requests, of the 159 submitted, 102 were either outright refused or simply received no response within the 30-day deadline.

‘While the ‘big ticket’ secrets get much attention, many South Africans are denied much more basic information that they need in their daily lives and struggles,’ said Hunter. This ranged from information pertaining to housing lists to water pollution, municipal budgets and corruption. Director of the Institute for Accountability Southern Africa, Advocate Paul Hoffman, is quoted as saying the government appeared to be preparing ‘for the more secret and less open form of administration’.

Read more…>

http://www.timeslive.co.za/thetimes/2013/02/19/access-to-info-act-no-help-r2k