In this section of the wesbite we aim to offer guidance to people wishing to use the Small Claims Court system in South Africa.
In 1984 the Parliament of South Africa passed an Act to create courts throughout the country which would be able to deal with smaller claims between its citizens relating to their civil disputes (as opposed to criminal cases).
Since the Act was brought into force, Small Claims Courts have been created in the majority of magisterial districts in the country.
The courts are presided over by commissioners who are practising magistrates, advocates or attorneys, as well as law professors, who are prepared to make their time available free of charge as a public service to enable persons having claims that do not warrant incurring the sort of legal expenses that would be involved in taking their disputes to the other courts in the country, to resolve their disputes inexpensively and reasonable speedily. Although anybody is entitled to bring civil proceedings in other courts, in particular the Magistrate’ Courts or the High Courts, the nature of the procedures in these courts are such that it is extremely difficult to do so without the assistance of trained legal practitioners whose fees would not be warranted in the case of a smaller claim.
The Small Claims Courts are designed particularly for use by individuals who wish to institute such claims. A company or other legal entity may not use the courts as a plaintiff or claimant, but may be sued in these courts by individuals.
In keeping with the intention of the legislation, representation by lawyers of parties involved in Small Court cases is prohibited.
The administrative functions of the Small Claims Courts are performed by persons in the employ of the Department of Justice who have offices at each of the Magistrates’ Courts in which Small Claims Courts have been established. These clerks are trained to assist lay persons to institute their claims and to understand the procedures.
Because the courts are Small Claims Courts the jurisdiction is limited to disputes involving claims of R15 000,00 or less. There are also certain kinds of cases that may not be instituted in the Small Claims Courts. The FAQ page elsewhere on this website has detailed information on this subject.
Judgments of the Small Claims Courts carry the same weight as the judgment of any other court in this country and may be enforced in a similar way. For administrative convenience the enforcement procedures are dealt with through the Magistrates’ Courts.
The information on this portion of the website may be accessed under various categories. These are:
- The Small Claims Court Act and Small Claims Court Rules;
- The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development which contains a list of all the Small Claims Courtsthroughout the country, their contact details and addresses;
- How to institute your claim with a step by step guide to bringing your claim in that court;
- How to prepare to present your claim in court once the date of the hearing arrives and what you can expect from the commissioners, the clerks of the court and the other party involved in your case;
- Frequently asked questions, which affords guidance in areas such as in which court action should be commenced, how various claims should be pursued and other such information.