Aug 2016 2nd Edition

Increasing access to justice

Written by Noluthando Mkhize
The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development is moving fast to reach its target of having 384 Small Claims Courts around the country to ensure accessible and affordable justice services are available.

Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development John Jeffery officially opened a Small Claims Courts in the Richmond Magistrate’s Court, outside Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal recently.

This means that people from the community of Richmond can get help with settling civil disputes and claims that do not exceed R15 000.

There are 378 established Small Claims Courts nationally. Additional courts are constantly being established.

Deputy Minister Jeffery said the Small Claims Court allows people to institute minor civil claims in a speedy, affordable, and simple manner without using an attorney.

“It doesn’t matter if one party to a dispute is unable to afford a lawyer, because the parties represent themselves. And if you don’t know how to go about the process, the clerk of the court is there to help you.

“The service is rendered free of charge. All you would need to pay are the sheriffs’ fees.”

Deputy Minister Jeffery encouraged all individuals in the legal fraternity to dedicate their time and serve as commissioners in Small Claims Courts. He added that justice has an important role to play in the cohesion and stability of communities.

“Small Claims Courts will have the biggest impact in societal stability if all role players commit to make them work.”

In 2015, the department received a R3 million cash injection from the Swiss Confederation to establish more courts in the country following an agreement between the two countries in 2007.

According to the department, the number of Small Claims Courts has increased from 68 in 2009 to 378 with more still to follow.

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