Monday, March 2, 2009

S.A. High Courts Renamed

In line with the Constitutional dispensation for South Africa the new “Renaming of High Courts Act” was signed into law by the President recently.

According to the Act there is now a Division of the High Court in each of the nine Provinces with a name matching the name of that Province. At least one Province will have more than one seat. The Transvaal Provincial Division, which previously included Pretoria and Johannesburg was one that would be divided. The North Gauteng High Court is seated in Pretoria and the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg.

The High Courts in Bisho, Grahamstown, Mthatha and Port Elizabeth will now be known as the Eastern Cape High Court. The North West High Court is seated in Mafikeng. The former Venda High Court which was situated in Thoyandou becomes the Limpopo High Court and the Kimberley High Court became the Northern Cape High Court. The Cape High Court is known as the Western Cape High Court and the Bloemfontein High Court will be known as the Free State High Court. The Durban and Pietermaritzburg High Courts are now the Kwa Zulu Natal High Court.

Experts have indicated that the changes will have an effect on commercial agreements. Agreements used in commercial transactions frequently identify the Court in which legal proceeding will take place or the name of the Court with jurisdiction. High Courts, generally, only hear civil matter exceeding R100 000 and serious criminal cases. In addition High Courts also have jurisdiction over sequestrations, adoption, divorces, insolvency etc. High Courts also hear appeals from lower Courts within their geographical jurisdiction.

The new legislation originated from a Bill first introduced in Parliament as the Superior Courts Bill during 2000 but subsequently withdrawn to allow for broad consultation.

Pieter Rautenbach
Projects Facilitator


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