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Magistrates’ Perceptions Survey 2022

Magistrates’ Perceptions Survey 2022

Magistrates’ Perceptions Survey 2022

This report is part of the Democratic Governance and Rights Unit’s (DGRU) research project on the South African Magistracy.

In 2019, the DGRU conducted its inaugural survey of South African Magistrates, investigating their perceptions of their work environment. The research highlighted several challenges that Magistrates face, ranging from high work pressure to inadequate physical infrastructure and administrative support.

This 2022 iteration of the survey sought to track change in these measures and to introduce a new set of questions relating to issues of concern. Questions in 2019 and 2022 related to workload, administrative and mental health, court infrastructure, safety and security, and stress levels. New questions in 2022 related to corruption, sexual harassment, and issues relating to career progression.

This report, as well as previous research, and the companion report “South African Magistrates Courts: A Court User Perspective 2023” are a part of the DGRU’s efforts to better understand trends in the South African judiciary over the past 15 years. This second iteration of the South African Magistrates’ Perception survey was made possible due to the generous support of the Millennium Trust.

Survey’s Key Findings

More magistrates responded in 2022 than in 2019. The profile of respondents is broadly in line with that of the magistracy in relation to seniority and gender, while minority racial groups are somewhat better represented in the survey than in the magistracy. Significant differences by race were however not observed and accordingly the survey was not weighted. Responses were received from all provinces.

Work Pressure, Safety and Sexual Harrassment

The 2022 survey reveals a magistracy under increasing pressure, both from within and outside it. Almost a quarter of magistrates have received physical harm or threats in the last 12 months relating to their work, while 16 percent of female magistrates have been sexually harassed or know a magistrate who has been sexually harassed – with the most commonly identified perpetrator being another magistrate.

Corruption in the Magistracy

Perceptions of corruption within the ranks of the judiciary and the magistracy have worsened but remain better than the perceptions of citizens. Nevertheless, the fraction of magistrates being aware of attempted bribery of a magistrate is at 1 in 8, with other magistrates being identified in 1 in 10 cases as the bribe offeror, is cause for concern.

The survey reveals a magistracy under pressure and in need of support and attention to the key issues identified.

Remuneration and benefits, court infrastructure and resources, morale

Reported working hours remain very high for some magistrates but not for others, with time in court taking up the bulk of their time. This must be reconciled with court hours data, which should be carefully scrutinised and disaggregated to better identify the courts and magistrates under pressure. Most magistrates continue to report being under a great deal of stress, with the vast majority reporting multiple symptoms of stress.

Court infrastructure and court staff ratings have not improved, and Covid-19 did not yield improved IT and other resources, yet it increased the pressure on magistrates in terms of backlogs created and management of restrictions.

Remuneration and benefits, court infrastructure and resources, morale in the magistracy, and ability to attract and retain the best people, were most likely to be identified as major issues in the magistracy. Remuneration, benefits, and career pathways were identified as key to retaining skills in the magistracy, while opportunities for career progression and mental health support were highly likely to be identified as important.

The survey reveals a magistracy under pressure and in need of support and attention to the key issues identified.







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