Management and Preservation of Court Records: A Case Study of the Mthatha Magistrate Court, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa.
The management and preservation of records is a crucial element in a records programme. This study investigated the management and preservation of court records, focusing particularly on the Mthatha Magistrate Court in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. A mixed methods approach, consisting of both qualitative and quantitative methods, was used, and data were obtained through interviews, observations and questionnaires. Using purposive sampling, 35 staff members were sampled from the Mthatha Magistrate Court. The quantitative data that were obtained from questionnaires distributed to these 35 respondents were analysed using the IBM SPSS software package and were presented in graphs and tables. Four participants were interviewed, and the qualitative data obtained from these interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using content analysis. The findings of the study revealed that the court officials depended entirely on records to fulfil their roles and that they acknowledged that records were vital for the administration of justice. In general, the results suggested that the management of records at the relevant court was ineffective, primarily in the creation phase. The study concluded that creators of court records should be responsible for their records so as to facilitate the smooth operation of the court. The study strongly recommended that the court should consider putting in place a general records management policy that should include the management of records only in an electronic form. The policy would give guidance for managing records and address issues such as records access, records security and preservation, as well as the management of electronic records.