Branch courts turned into full service courts

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pretoria - Fifteen branch courts across the country are now enjoying the status of being full service courts with improved access to the justice system following the extension of their services.

As of Tuesday, the branch courts started to offer full services to communities in townships and rural areas, who had no access to justice services offered by the main courts located in the historically urban and developed areas.

Due to this, people had to travel to the main courts to access services such as child maintenance, protection orders, deceased estates, adoption orders or legal remedies to any civil disputes. 

Department of Justice and Constitutional Development spokesperson Tlali Tlali said the extension of services to the current branch courts will bring great relief to affected communities, enhancing their access to justice, consistent with the provisions of our constitution. 

"This is consistent with government's efforts to prioritize service delivery by bringing facilities and services to the areas where people reside," Mr Tlali said. 

He noted that through these services, the re-designated courts will now enjoy exclusive jurisdiction.

"This is the first phase of the roll out project that affects seven provinces at this stage. 

"In light of these latest developments, out of 90 branch courts, 15 will now be converted into full service courts, this brings the number of branch courts still to be re-designated to 75," Mr Tlali said.

The 15 branch courts being converted in this current phase are located in seven of the nine provinces including Eastern Cape, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga, three in Gauteng, six in Northern Cape, and two in the Western Cape. 

Mr Tlali added that every effort will be made to ensure that all South Africans enjoy equal access to justice without necessarily being dictated to by the geographical areas where they reside. 

"An added benefit of the conversion of these courts will be the alleviation of case load among other things in the main courts, resulting in improved delivery of services," he said.

Department Minister Jeff Radebe recently signed a notice to designate these courts as competent to adjudicate in criminal cases, civil disputes, family law or maintenance matters which are registered or reported from Tuesday.