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Mpumalanga court blighted by fire and security risks, lack of maintenance

25 January 2022 - 10:58 By TimesLIVE
The Mpumalanga High Court was opened in 2019 with 12 courtrooms - six for civil cases and six for criminal matters.
The Mpumalanga High Court was opened in 2019 with 12 courtrooms - six for civil cases and six for criminal matters.
Image: PresidencyZA via Twitter

A court building beginning to fall apart three years after it opened, broken equipment and shoddy maintenance, water shortages and dysfunctional fire extinguishers.

This is what MPs from the parliamentary portfolio committee on justice and correctional services encountered on Monday during oversight visits to the Mpumalanga High Court and a provincial sexual offences court.

At the high court, the committee said it heard the infrastructure, which was opened in 2019 is falling apart. There are reports of roof leaks, broken security cameras, an out-of-service biometric system and falling bookshelves in the library.

“It is important that once we have built something, we look after it and make sure it is properly maintained for future generations,” said committee chairperson Bulelani Magwanishe.

Security cameras and the biometric system at the high court were a security risk that exposed judges, staff and the public to risk.

The committee said it was particularly concerned that security cameras and the biometric system were a security risk that exposed judges, staff and the public to risk.

“This should be given urgent attention.”

Last week a fire alarm went off after gas suppression cylinders exploded. The committee heard they had not been serviced since 2019.

The committee also noted with concern reports of insufficient space for the sexual offences court, non-compliance with the sexual offences court blueprint and inadequate infrastructure maintenance.

As a result of the space problem, the sexual offences court, which operates from the Mbombela regional court premises, sometimes struggles to protect survivors from coming into contact with suspects.

“Some examples are to access the toilets, survivors have to pass through the waiting area where suspects who are out on bail are sitting.

“Court officials told the committee it was difficult to operate a court in most court buildings throughout the province due to poor maintenance and old heritage buildings that cannot be modernised.

“Challenges include leaking roofs, dysfunctional air-conditioners and fire extinguishers, water shortages, telephone lines out of order for months and broken court recording transcription machines. These challenges lead to the postponement of cases, adding to the backlog.”

Magwanishe said the committee would continue to engage the office of the chief justice, the department of justice, the National Prosecuting Authority, the department of public works and infrastructure and other relevant stakeholders to resolve the challenges to make sure “people are served by the most efficient courts”.

On Tuesday the committee will visit the Barberton Correctional Centre and Barberton Community Corrections facility to assess their rehabilitation, skills development and integration programmes.

TimesLIVE


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