145 small claims courts needed

April 1st, 2012

By Nomfundo Manyathi

The Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Andries Nel, officially opened a small claims court (SCC) in Balfour in Mpumalanga on 17 February.

The court is dedicated to the memory of Gert Sibande, former trade unionist and leader of the African National Congress, who played a leading role in the 1959 Potato Boycott, which protested the treatment of farm workers. He also played a crucial role in the campaign leading to the adoption of the Freedom Charter in 1955.

Minister Nel’s spokesperson, Chester Mpane, told De Rebus that the opening of the SCC in Balfour coincided with the establishment of another SCC in Eerstehoek, also in Mpumalanga, adding that this brought the total number of SCCs in Mpumalanga to 27.

President Jacob Zuma called for the establishment of at least one SCC in each of South Africa’s 387 magisterial districts and pleaded with attorneys and other legal practitioners to make themselves available as presiding officers. Mr Mpane said that at the moment there were 242 SCCs across the country.

SCCs provide affordable justice to those seeking adjudication of disputes for amounts up to R12 000. They are presided over by commissioners, who are usually practising attorneys, advocates and legal academics, and no legal representation is allowed.

Mr Mpane said there were five districts in the Mpumalanga province without SCCs and, in total, 145 magisterial districts across the nine provinces were still without SCCs.

At the time De Rebus went to print, the Eastern Cape had the most magisterial districts at 79 and the North West had the least with 27. Gauteng was the closest to target, with 28 magisterial districts and 26 SCCs, meaning that only two districts were without SCCs. The number of SCCs still needed in each province, excluding those already mentioned, are as follows:

  • Free State – 23
  • Eastern Cape – 43
  • KwaZulu-Natal – 23
  • Limpopo – 9
  • Northern Cape – 13
  • North West – 9
  • Western Cape – 18

Nomfundo Manyathi, nomfundo@derebus.org.za

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2012 (April) DR 15.