Decision not to increase judges' pay may lead to exodus, warns lawyers' association
The National Association of Democratic Lawyers (Nadel) has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to urgently reconsider his decision not to increase judges' salaries and look at other ways of saving on government spending.
It also warned that salaries not in accordance with living conditions may lead to an exodus of judges from the bench and failure of the bench to attract suitably qualified candidates.
Ramaphosa said last week that judges would not receive salary increases this year, turning down a recommendation from the independent commission for the remuneration of public office bearers to increase the remuneration of judges by 3%, backdated to April 2019.
Nadel said the judiciary had, in the past three years, received lower than inflation increases and no increase in 2016/2017.
“While Nadel is alive to the reality of the country’s economic difficulties, we strongly disagree with the president’s decision not to increase judges' salaries,” the organisation said in a statement.
It said judges’ remuneration was a vital component of security of tenure.
“Secure and appropriate compensation for judges is a critical and constitutionally recognised part of judicial independence.
“It is trite in foreign and local jurisdictions that judges ought to be adequately compensated to ensure they act independently and not rely upon financial pressure imposed by external sources that might influence the judge's decisions in court,” the organisation said.
It said salaries of judges should be attractive enough to attract and retain the best the legal profession had to offer.
It said failure to adjust salaries accordingly created undue pressure on the best performing arm of government and had the potential to lead to low morale within the judiciary.