Analysis on the Administration and Governance of the South African Case Docket

Master Thesis


Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title
Link to Journal
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

University of Cape Town

The minor dissertation is a desktop literature study on the debates and research on the matter of docket management and administration in South Africa. The purpose of the minor dissertation is to understand the latest developments and trends that have transformed the administration and governance of case dockets globally and particularly in South Africa. A compendium of literature including governmental reports, scholarly journal articles and newspaper reports were utilised as the basis for this minor dissertation. The limitation to this study is primarily the paucity of South African literature on the subject matter as well as data gaps in empirical research. Effective case management has been the focal point for courts facing burgeoning bottlenecks throughout the world. Hence, techniques such as case screening or docket control, judicial intervention, attorney and advocate support, specialisation of courts and the integration of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) have been employed globally to expedite case flow. This research paper will draw on global paradigms and world’s best practices for case docket management from North America, Europe and Namibia. Thereafter the research turns to administrative reform from a South African perspective; what will be examined is the transition from policing practices under the apartheid regime to case docket management under the constitutional dispensation of democratic governance. As part of an Integrated Justice System (IJS) strategy, South African policymakers have drawn from the pool of experience by adopting ICT projects within the Criminal Justice System (CJS), primarily giving rise to the electronic or e-Docket system. The e-Docket system, which is said to take up to at least 10 to 20 years to fully implement, faces its own hurdles and dilemmas, not least as a result of police officials preferring the old traditional paper-based dossiers, thereby resisting the technological movement. In addition to the e-Docket system, the CJS has reeled in principles from the private sector such as outsourcing and New Public Management (NPM) philosophies in order to effectively regulate docket management as well as accelerate court processes. The research problem, which is twofold, first aims at examining case docket reform ie how case dockets have transitioned from the apartheid era to the constitutional dispensation and whether or not this has been effective. This issue will be answered in Chapter Two, in which case chronology will be discussed. The second concerns the adoption and implementation of techniques borrowed from the West, such as the implementation of ICT projects and the success of first world systems in a country like South Africa with a turbulent socio-economic background. This problem will be addressed in Chapters Two and Three in which the eDocket will be introduced and critically examined against South Africa’s CJS strategies. Arguably, the adoption and implementation of Western ideologies and first world best practices in South Africa may not be feasible given the current landscape of constrained and limited resources, both financial and in the field of human capital. Additionally, the climate is further exacerbated by low levels of computer literacy and an overall scarcity of skilled and knowledgeable workers required to operate sophisticated ICT systems. Until the e-Docket system is fully implemented and effectively operational, the labour intensive paper-based dockets will continue to bear negative ramifications including mismanagement: ie negligent docket handling, lost or stolen dockets and the practice of bartering dockets in exchange for gratuities. The latter provides a host of repercussions for the interests of stakeholders including egregious violations of fundamental human rights. The aim of this research is to understand the rationale behind maladministration and ineffective governance of dockets in the democratic era, as well as the effect it has on stakeholders. The research provides recommendations in which the administration of dockets may be adequately regulated. Therefore, police dockets represent much more than a kneejerk reaction to crime; dockets regulate the entry points into the criminal justice system pipeline. South Africa needs to invest in its greatest asset of all − its human capital, by developing and equipping its people to embrace the technological revolution. Have we sunk our heels in too far into the ‘splendor’ of Western ideologies of technology and privatisation or is it time that South African leadership adopts accountability and charters a course with an authentic framework best suited for South African problems?