Types of courts in South Africa

Types of courts in South Africa
20 Apr 2020

We offer a simple overview of the types of courts in South Africa, together with details of which courts may be involved in hearing personal injury claims.

South African court types and levels

Types of courts

South Africa’s lower courts

Chiefs’ and Headmens Courts

Chiefs’ and Headmens Courts administer African customary law, subject to the Council of Traditional Leaders.

Small claims courts

Small claims courts hear civil cases involving claims below R15,000.

Usually these claims are brought by individuals rather than companies. For example, they may involve claims for money or goods that are owed, claims for damages or claims based on violations of contract terms.

Magistrates’ courts

Magistrates’ courts are divided into district and regional courts.

District courts hear civil matters involving claims below R200,000 and less serious criminal cases, involving offences other than rape, murder or treason.

These courts can impose fines up to R120,000 and prison sentences up to three years.

Regional Magistrates’ Courts hear civil cases involving claims below R400,000. They also hear less serious criminal cases and divorce cases.

A regional Magistrate’s Court can impose fines up to R600,000 and give prison sentences up to 15 years.

South Africa’s High Courts

South Africa includes ten provincial High Courts and three local High Courts. Each of these presides over a different jurisdiction.

High Courts hear civil cases involving claims of R400,000 or more, as well as criminal cases involving rape, murder or treason.

The High Court system also includes circuit courts. These move around the country to serve more rural areas.

The Supreme Court of Appeal

The Supreme Court of Appeal is an appellate court. It hears appeals against rulings that are sent to it by the High Courts.

The Constitutional Court

The Constitutional Court is the highest court in South Africa. It hears appeals that relate to the Constitution only after a judgement has already been handed down.

All other appeals go to the Supreme Court of Appeals.

No other court can overturn a ruling made by the Constitutional Court.

Specialist courts

A number of specialist courts handle matters in specific areas of law. For example, these include Tax Courts, Labour Courts, Land Claims Courts and Electoral Court.

These courts are similar in status to the High Courts.

Military courts

The military courts hear cases involving members of the South African National Defence Force, who are subject to the Military Discipline Code.

Which South African courts hear personal injury cases?

Cases involving personal injury claims below R400,000 are heard by Magistrates’ Courts.

Cases involving higher claim amounts are heard by a High Court. A High Court also hears appeals against rulings by Magistrates’ Courts.

Personal injury claims with DSC Attorneys

At DSC Attorneys, our attorneys and medico-legal team have extensive experience in handling personal injury claims.

We can assess your claim, help prepare supporting evidence and represent you in legal proceedings, no matter which types of courts in South Africa are involved. We work on a no win, no fee basis.

See also:

(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
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