26 April 2013
South Africa has set up 67 new small claims courts since April 2010, including 16 new courts in the last 12 months, bringing to 263 the total number of such courts in the country, says Justice Minister Jeff Radebe.
Small claims courts handle minor civil disputes involving claims of not more than R12 000 in an informal manner without representation by an attorney, allowing the public easier access to justice.
Responding to a question in the National Assembly in Cape Town earlier this month, Radebe said the government aimed to establish a small claims court in each of the country’s 387 magisterial districts.
“This is a strategic approach we embarked on several years ago, and it has been very successful in extending access to justice to all the people in South Africa – even those in remote rural areas,” Radebe said, adding that 77% of small claims courts had been set up in rural areas.
Last week, the Cabinet welcomed the establishment of a small claims court at the Protea Magistrate’s Court in Soweto, describing it as “a significant milestone in our quest to ensure access to justice for all South Africans”.
Since its first sitting in August, the Protea Small Claims Court has received 550 applications and finalised 181 matters.
Other small claims courts set up in the last year include courts in Aberdeen, Fort Beaufort, Kirkwood, Motherwell and Victoria East in the Eastern Cape, Brandfort and Jagersfontein in the Free State, Westonaria in Gauteng, Alfred, Glencoe and Ntuzuma in Kwazulu-Natal, Malamulele and Northam in Limpopo, Carolina and Wakkerstroom in Mpumalanga, and Koster in North West province.
Radebe said Deputy Justice Minister Andries Nel had recently approved the establishment of new small claims courts in Elliot in the Eastern Cape and Ngotshe in KwaZulu-Natal, and was considering courts for Madikwe in North West, Middledrift in the Eastern Cape and Msinga in KwaZulu-Natal.
He added that the department was using community outreach activities in conjuction with community radio stations to educate the public about the small claims courts.