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Judicial systemin South Africa Judicial systemin South Africa

Bronze medal Reporter Adv. Thomson Posted 19 Jan 2019 Read More News and Blogs
Judicial systemin South Africa

Judicial system in South Africa

South Africa has a unified judicial system. Section 166 of the Constitution of the Republic deals with the Judicial System establishes the following courts:

i.the Constitutional Court;

ii.the Supreme Court of Appeal;

iii.the High Courts

iv.the Magistrates' Courts; and

v.any other court established or recognised in terms of an Act of Parliament.

There are also special income tax courts, the Labour Court and the Labour Appeal Court, the Land Claims Court, the Competition Appeal Court, the Electoral Court, divorce courts, small claims courts, “military courts”, and equality courts.


The Constitutional Court


This is the higher court in the court system of South Africa. This court hears and works only on the appeals of constitutional issues, no other issues are discussed in this court. It consists of the Chief Justice of South Africa, the Deputy Chief Justice and nine Constitutional Court judges. The Constitutional Court makes the final decision on whether an Act of Parliament, a provincial Act or the conduct of the President is constitutional.



The Supreme Court of Appeal


The Supreme Court of Appeal falls next to the constitutional court and is the highest court which deals in all issue types. In terms of the Constitution, the Supreme Court of Appeal may decide any matter, exclude certain labour and competition matters, but is purely an appeal court, and it may decide only appeals and issues connected with appeals.Except for the Constitutional Court, no other court can change a decision of the Supreme Court of Appeal.Only the Supreme Court of Appeal can change one of its own decisions. 


The High Courts


The High Court is divided in seven provincial segments each of which has jurisdiction over the respectively defined area. The names of the provincial high courts are-

  1. The Eastern Cape Division
  2. The Free State Division
  3. The Gauteng Division
  4. The KwaZulu- Natal Division
  5. The Limpopo Division 
  6. The North West Division
  7. The Northern Cape Division
  8. The Western Cape Division

There are one other division which are under the process of being established. The high courts mentioned above have jurisdiction over the areas defined and hear appeals from magistrate courts as well as cases that fall outside magistrate court jurisdictions


Magistrate’s courts


This is the lowest level in the court system of South Africa which deal with less serious criminal and civil cases. The country is divided into about 350 magisterial districts and hence a magistrate’s court for each of these districts. The criminal cases related to murder, treason or rape are not fall under the jurisdiction of magistrate’s court. Also civil cases can be tried in magistrate’s courts only if the fine is no more than R300, 000. Besides these district magistrate’s courts, there are also regional magistrate’s courts. In regional magistrates’s court the magisterial districts are grouped as regions.


Specialist Courts


In specialist courts segment, the Labor Appeal Court is positioned similar to the Supreme Court that only hears appeals from the Labor Court. All other courts including- the Labor Court, Land Claims Court, Electoral Court, and Tax Courts enjoy statuses similar to that of High Courts in the respective fields.


Military Courts


The Senior Military Judge’s Courts and the Military Judge’s Courts form up the segment of Military courts in South Africa. In military courts- the higher most authority is the Courts of Military Appeals, secondly the Senior Military and the Military Judge’s courts.




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