Revamped old PMB court building officially opened

2014-04-17 00:00

THE historic old Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court building in the city centre has taken on a new lease of life at a cost of R57 million.

The elegant brick and stone building, where the late President Nelson Mandela made his first court appearance following his arrest in Howick in 1962, was built in 1938.

After being vacated in favour of new modern courts many years ago, the building fell into disrepair, was occupied by vagrants and was extensively burnt in a fire lit by them on November 16, 2006.

Renovations began in September 2008 and were completed two years later at an estimated cost of R57 million.

Yesterday, Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi handed over a symbolic key to Justice Minister Jeff Radebe to herald the official opening of the new courts and offices now housed there.

The revamped building has facilities for three civil courts, two maintenance courts, a children’s court, two domestic violence courts, a sexual offences court, 12 magistrate’s offices, as well as offices for administrative staff, interpreters, court preparation officers, investigators, attorneys and police.

Radebe said the importance of the Pietermaritzburg courts was signified by the large area falling under its jurisdiction.

“This is certainly a busy court and this is what we mean when we speak of access to justice for all,” the minister said.

In his speech, Radebe touched on the fact that the monetary jurisdiction of the civil district courts is set to increase from June 1 this year, from R100 000 to R200 000, and in the regional courts to R400 000.

In addition the jurisdiction of the small claims court will go up from R10 000 to R15 000.

There are now 293 small claims courts nationally, of which 30 were established in the past financial year.

“A total of 1 630 small claims court commissioners, most of them legal practitioners, preside in these courts on a pro bono [free] basis. We continue to applaud their selfless and tireless contribution, which without doubt helps give effect to access to justice for all,” the minister said.

The audience was told by Deputy Justice Minister John Jeffrey earlier that Howick does not have a small claims court and he called on potential commissioners to volunteer to get one started in the area.

Cases dealt with last year by the PMB Regional and Magistrate’s Courts included:

• 17 675 criminal cases;

• 385 maintenance cases;

• 18 999 civil cases;

• 47 970 (maintenance) beneficiaries were paid

R32,9 million;

• 447 sexual offence cases;

• 4 249 domestic violence cases;

• 2 583 small claims court cases;

• 575 children’s court cases.

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