Regional Courts Get More Power

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has amended the Magistrates’ Courts Act of 1944 giving powers to Regional Courts to deal with civil cases. President Jacob Zuma announced the commencement of the Jurisdiction of Regional Courts Amendment Act which came into effect on 9th August 2010, the National Women’s Day.

The Regional Courts were established in 1952 to deal with serious criminal offences and mete out harsher penalties. The amendments increase access to justice to members of the public, in particular, women and children who go to courts daily for the resolution of family related disputes.
CASES NOW DEALT WITH BY REGIONAL COURTS INCLUDE
  • Family disputes including divorce, maintenance, adoption and matters relating to custody of minor children.
  • Disputes over movable and immovable property where the amount in dispute is between R100 000 to R300 000 which were dealt with by the High Court before the amendment.
  • Credit Agreements involving claims of between R100 000 to R300 000.
  • Road Accident Fund Claims of between R100 000 to R300 000.
BENEFITS OF THE AMENDMENT
Reduced time of finalisation of cases:
  • There are now far more Regional courts than former divorce courts.
  • This will assist in reducing case backlogs both at the High Courts and Magistrates Courts.
Reduced Costs:
  • Proceedings in the High Courts are complex and usually involve both attorneys and advocates with the resultant high litigation costs.
  • Regional courts have a lower costs tariff compared to the High Court, and simplified proceedings which include the use of mediation in resolving civil disputes.
  • Registrars and assistant registrars appointed at each regional court will provide assistance to member of the public.
ACCESS TO THE COURTS
  • You can approach the court in person or through a lawyer.
  • The amended rules of the Magistrates’ Court which provide processes and procedures have been published in the Government Gazette and may be obtained.
  • You may contact the registrar or assistant registrar appointed at each of the 62 courts.

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