Justice Minister Ronald Lamola has dismissed as ‘misinformation’ an economic impact report by Rhodes University economics Professor Geoff Antrobus predicting the shedding of thousands of jobs in Makhanda if the seat of the High Court moved from that city to Bhisho.

Daily Dispatch report says in a letter replying to concerns raised by UDM leader Bantu Holomisa about the predicted economic devastation of Makhanda if the mooted relocation of the seat of the High Court was implemented, Lamola said no significant job losses were predicted at all.

This directly contradicts the economic impact report compiled by Antrobus – which says 5 000 direct jobs would be lost and a further 25 000 dependants would be without an income if Parliament implemented the court rationalisation committee’s recommendations.

These recommendations included that the seat of the court be moved to Bhisho and that the local division left in Makhanda have its geographical jurisdiction slashed by more than two-thirds.

But Lamola said there was no official study confirming such high job losses.

Lamola said in his letter to Holomisa that it was ‘difficult to say what the impact will be’ but that he did not ‘anticipate significant job losses’.

In response, the Makhanda High Court Action Committee (MHCAC) said the letter is deeply disappointing and disconcerting, and suggested Lamola had not properly read the submissions it had made to him.

‘This all has the hallmarks of a determined campaign, which ignores the facts and the plight of Makhanda’s citizens,’ local attorney and MHCAC secretary Brin Brody said.

According to the Daily Dispatch report, the MHCAC has not only provided the economic impact study by Antrobus to the Minister, but has also set out reasons why the proposed move would not enhance access to justice.

The MHCAC estimated it would cost at least R1bn just to replicate Makhanda’s High Court infrastructure in Bhisho.

Lamola said implementing the recommendation that the seat be moved would also require Parliament to amend the Superior Courts Act, which states Makhanda as the seat.

This would require further consultation with the Makhanda community which has been so vehemently opposed to the move.

‘These processes will take time to complete,’ Lamola said in the letter.

Whatever happens, Lamola suggested that the final recommendations made by his rationalisation committee in February still have a long way to go.

Full Daily Dispatch report