More than half of the one million cases that made it last year on to the rolls of South Africa's lower courts were withdrawn or struck off, the Democratic Alliance (DA) said on Tuesday.
Speaking during debate on the Justice and Constitutional Development Department budget vote in the National Assembly, DA justice spokesperson Sheila Camerer told MPs drastic action is also needed to reduce growing case backlogs.
"Negative trends in South Africa's 2 000-odd court rooms include steadily growing outstanding court rolls -- some 210 000 cases in the lower court, as well as increasing backlogs.
"[These include] nearly 37 000 cases in the lower courts -- that's cases over 12 months old -- and 20 000 cases in the regional courts, where most serious violent crime is dealt with," she said.
Court sitting hours and case-finalisation rates have dropped for three years in a row, and, generally, case cycle times have increased, despite the appointment of 260 court managers.
"Conviction rates and the rate of settlement of cases by plea bargaining are both down, according to the National Prosecuting Authority, and appeals often take five years to finalise -- far too long.
"Perhaps the most worrying aspect of this poor performance is the large and increasing number of cases that make it to court, but then fall by the wayside.
"Last year, some 590 000 of the million-odd cases enrolled in the lower courts, fell by the wayside because of withdrawals: a quarter of a million cases being struck off the roll; nearly 100 000 cases a non-appearance of the accused; and, some 150 000 cases where warrants of arrest were issued."
The bottom line is the courts "are not well run", she said.
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