The purpose of the Magistrates Bill, 2022 (the Bill) is to provide for the establishment, constitution, objects and functions of the Magistrates Commission, to regulate the appointment, conditions of service, remuneration, retirement, suspension and removal of, magistrates; and to provide for matters in connection with Magistrates.
The main aims of the Bill are threefold. Firstly, it aims to replace the current Magistrates Act, 1993 (Act No. 90 of 1993) (MA) in order to ensure the autonomy of the lower courts judiciary from the Executive. Secondly, it aims to incorporate all the provisions relating to the appointment of judicial officers of the lower courts in the Bill itself, since some provisions are presently contained in the Magistrates’ Courts Act, 1944 (Act No. 32 of 1944) (MCA). Thirdly, it aims to bring the procedure for dealing with complaints about magistrates’ conduct in line with the dispensation applicable to judges in the superior courts.
The inclusion of the appointment provisions in the Bill was supported by the Association of Regional Magistrates of Southern Africa, the Chief Magistrates Forum (CMF) and the Regional Courts Presidents Forum (RCPF). The proposed alignment of the complaints mechanism for magistrates with those of judges was also supported, notably by the CMF and RCPF. The main reason for the support seems to be the fact that such a step would affirm the status of the lower courts’ judicial officers as forming part of a single judiciary, with universal norms and standards applicable to the judiciary as a whole.
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