13 August 2013
President Jacob Zuma has signed into law the Superior Courts Bill, which aims to restructure South Africa’s judiciary and integrate its court system while enhancing access to justice in country.
The Superior Courts Bill, which was approved by the Cabinet in December 2010, will consolidate all the laws relating to the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Appeal and the High Court into a single piece of legislation.
It will also establish a single High Court of South Africa.
Until now, the country’s Superior Courts have been structured largely in accordance with the Supreme Court Act of 1959 passed early on during apartheid rule.
Through the new law, the current 13 High Courts, which include High Courts inherited from the former “self-governing” apartheid homelands of Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Ciskei and Venda, will be rationalised into a single High Court with a fully functional Division of the Court established in each province.
Larger divisions will in turn have one or more local seats as may be necessary to bring justice closer to where people live.
“The communities who live in the now Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces have endured the hardship of accessing the High Court in North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria since the formation of the Union of South Africa for a period of more than a century,” Zuma said after signing the Bill into law on Tuesday.
“Legally, they can now have the benefit of having their own division of the High Court right at their doorstep.”
This will happen as soon as construction of the two High Court Divisions in Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces has been completed.
“The construction of the Limpopo seat of the High Court is under way and will be completed by June 2014, while the construction of the Mpumalanga seat is expected to commence before the end of this year,” Zuma said.
He said it was vital to ensure that justice “does not remain the privilege of the rich but is a fundamental human right enjoyed by all our people. The Superior Courts Act is a step in this direction”.