Mohl Modulasetulo, Ditona le Batlat?atona bao ba hlomphegago, maloko ao a hlomphegago, thobela. E re ke thome ka go swayaswaya ... (Translation of Sepedi paragraph follows.) [Mrs M R M MOTHAPO: Greetings to the hon Chairperson, hon Ministers, hon Deputy Ministers and hon members. Let me start by commenting ...]
No, this is royal blue. It's royal blue; it is not DA blue! [Laughter.] [Interjections.] Let me start by responding to issues raised by hon members, hon Litchfield-Tshabalala and hon Singh. It is true, the current Act is a 1969 Act. However, it has been amended periodically to provide for the legal representation of children in terms of the Child Justice Act, which is a very recent Act. And again, it is providing legal aid in specific maintenance matters. Maintenance matters are regulated in terms of the 1998 Act.
The current Act has been amended to provide legal aid for section 204 people, witnesses and persons facing extradition. It also clarifies the granting of legal aid in commissions of inquiry. It has also been amended to provide legal aid in respect of civil matters.
Ka baka leo, a re tlogeleng go bolela t?e Molao wo wa bjale, e lego Legal Aid, o sa di bolelago. [Let's stop talking about what is not mentioned in the current Legal Aid Act.]
When coming to issues of competencies regarding the conviction rate, through you, Chair, as alluded to by hon Litchfield-Tshabalala, I would like to put on record that legal practitioners assigned by Legal Aid South Africa to handle cases on behalf of clients have a higher percentage of conviction- she knows that very well - more than 80%. Therefore, competency and conviction rates are very high.
May I also respond to the issue raised by hon Mncwabe of the NFP about clear guidelines? Fortunately, as I am talking now, the current Act provides for a Legal Aid Guide in an effort to put things in context. It is important briefly to speak about the Legal Aid Guide that is currently in use and, and its purpose before I go to the regulations and manual, as provided for in the present Bill.
The Legal Aid Act requires the board of Legal Aid South Africa, in consultation with the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, as in the current Act, to set out the policies and procedures for the provision of legal services in the form of a Legal Aid Guide and to enable rendering a fair, equitable and transparent legal aid management process. What this means is that while the Legal Aid Act provides for the enabling framework for the realisation of the right to legal aid, the Legal Aid Guide sets out in detail the operational processes and procedures involved in exercising the right to legal aid. For example, who should qualify for legal aid - a sort of means test - which legal aid matters are covered, etc.
However, in terms of the new Bill under discussion, Clause 23, hon Mncwabe, through you, Chair, provides that the board must compile, review, amend, and approve a Legal Aid Manual, which will be reviewed at least every second year. The manual is intended to deal with administrative issues relating to the provision of legal aid in respect of which a legislative instrument is not necessary.
It goes further, to say which matters are included in the manual, namely the procedures in terms of which applications for legal aid are administered; the systems and methods whereby legal aid is delivered and the requirements and criteria for accreditation of private legal practitioners as well as the terms and conditions subject to which such instructions are allocated, including the fees and disbursements that are payable.
The Bill under discussion also makes provision for regulations in terms of clause 24, which provides that the Minister must, after receipt of the recommendation of the board, make regulations relating to the following: the types of civil and criminal matters in respect of which legal aid is both provided and not provided as well as the circumstances in which limited legal aid is provided; the requirements or criteria that an applicant must comply with to qualify for legal aid as well as the terms and conditions according to which such legal aid is made available to the applicant.
Therefore, this continues to tell that very good story in line with our ... [Interjections.] ... constitutional imperatives in terms of section 9, concerning equality in law, and section 35, the rights of detainees and arrested persons. This is a very good story indeed. [Interjections.] [Applause.] It is a very good story. You may not like to hear it, but it is a very good story indeed. [Interjections.]
As we continue with the regulations, there is also the policy relating to the approval or refusal of legal aid, the termination of legal aid and appeals against refusal or termination of legal aid; and any matter which makes it necessary or expedient to prescribe the proper implementation or administration of this Act.
It is therefore our wish, as the ruling party, the governing party, that this progressive Bill be passed into law to cater for the legal needs of our indigent. Thank you. [Applause.] [Interjections.] This is royal blue! I am royal. I am royal. [Time expired.][Applause.]