21 April 2011
The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation has extended its partnership in a project aimed at revitalising South Africa’s Small Claims Courts, making R10-million available for the project for a further four years.
Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Jeff Radebe signed a cooperative partnership agreement with Swiss Ambassador Rudolf Barfuss in Johannesburg this week, extending the project from its initial four years.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, Radebe said South Africa’s Small Claims Courts were “a powerful mechanism to provide access to justice, especially to the poor,” noting that any person could approach the clerk of the Small Claims Court at his/her local magistrate’s office and the clerk would assist by providing advice.
Small Claims Courts handle civil matters involving claims of not more than R12000.
Barfuss said the Small Claims Courts were simple, cheap and effective. However, he said that there was a need to increase public awareness on the functioning of the courts.
The first six Small Claims Courts were established in 1985 and there are now 224 courts nationally. To date, more than 136 000 cases have been dealt with by the courts, with 1 283 commissioners manning them throughout the country. Of these commissioners, 229 were appointed last year.
About 60 courts are set to be established during the next two years.
In a bid to ensure effective functioning of the courts, Radebe said his department will continue to train legal practitioners, and that awareness would be created on the functioning of the courts, especially in rural areas.