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Cash injection for SA small claims courts

Written by Noluthando Mkhize
Small Claims Courts around the country are set to improve thanks to an agreement between the South African Government and the Swiss Confederation.

The agreement, which commenced in 2007, is being implemented in two phases. In total R4,5 million was contributed for the first phase, which ran until 2011 and focused on improving the functioning and efficiency of Small Claims Courts.

Phase two ran from March 2011 to 28 February 2015, with a further contribution of R10 million.

Towards the end of the second phase, the Swiss Confederation offered to extend the agreement by ten months, ending in December 2015, with an additional contribution of R3 million.

Since the start of the project  331 Small Claims Courts have been established, mostly in previously disadvantaged communities, rural towns and townships.

Further, programme guidelines for Small Claims Court clerks and commissioners were printed and distributed and are now being revised and updated, along with the training of 270 clerks and 487 commissioners.

Commissioners who preside in these courts are chosen from a pool of experienced legal professionals and academics who provide their services free of charge.

When the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Michael Masutha delivered his Budget Vote recently, he said Small Claims Courts were an important vehicle for people to access justice speedily and at no cost.

 “The number of Small Claims Courts increased from 68 in 2009 to 340 in 2014/2015. We are very close to achieving our target of 384, one per magisterial district,” he said.

Small Claims Courts are used to settle minor civil disputes and claims between parties without representation by an attorney in an informal manner.

An amount not exceeding R15 000 can be claimed at the Small Claims Court. Before 2010, Small Claims Courts could only deal with cases involving small civil claims of R7 000 and below.

The jurisdiction of these courts was further increased to R15 000 as from April 2014.

Anybody can use the services of the Small Claims Court free of charge, all one has to pay is the Sheriff’s fee.

The department aims to have such courts in every magisterial district around the country.

For more information you can contact:

Ms Funeka Thema on: 012-357 8236 or Ms BS Sithole on: 012-357 8258 or send a fax to: 086 500 5549

16th Floor, East Tower Momentum Building, Pretoria

To find the nearest SCC to you, visit www.justice.gov.za/scc/scc_courts.htm