Upgraded courts to hear civil matters

2008-10-30 00:00

Cape Town — KwaZulu-Natal is to benefit from a key initiative aimed at increasing access to justice for rural and township communities — the redesignation of branch courts.

Safety and Security Minister Nathi Mthethwa announced yesterday that 20 of the country’s 90 branch courts will be re-designated as proper main courts to provide a full range of court-related services.

Briefing the media on the work of the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster, Mthethwa said the move will address some of the historical inequalities around the distribution of justice services.

“Branch courts, as part of the old, apartheid-drawn jurisdictional areas, denied access to justice to millions of people.”

The re-designation will ensure that the branch courts deal not only with criminal cases, “but with civil matters as well”.

Mthethwa said the notice for the re-designation of the 20 branch courts as main courts will be published in the Government Gazette next month.

“This will address the hardships endured by the communities who receive limited services from branch courts and have to commute to the towns and cities to access services such as maintenance, domestic violence, children inquiries and deceased estates.”

He said the areas that will have fully-fledged courts include Ntuzuma in KZN, Mamelodi, Alexandra in Gauteng, Motherwell in the Eastern Cape and Khayelitsha in the Western Cape.

Mthethwa said the re-designation will be followed by the re-alignment of magisterial districts with municipal and provincial boundaries to increase access to justice.

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