Magistrates Court Rules were amended with effect 15th October 2010.
As from the 15th of October 2010, the jurisdiction of the regional courts has been extended to enable civil disputes as well as divorce matters to be heard.
The upside to this change is that there are now 62 regional courts in South Africa to deal with the backlog of matters.
The matters that are now appearing before the regional courts are as follows:-
- Disputes over movable and immovable property between the value of R 100 000.00 and R 300 000.00;
- Credit Agreements between the value of R 100 000.00 and R 300 000.00.
Road accident fund claims may now also be dealt with in the regional courts with a monetary jurisdiction between R 100 000.00 and R 300 000.00.
The Legislature’s main intention in bringing about these changes to the rules was to promote access to courts as well as to reduce the costs.
Some of the major changes in the New Magistrate Court Amendment Act 19 of 2010 are as follows:
- Address for service of pleadings and notices has been extended to 15 kilometres of the office of the Registrar, as opposed to the previous 8 kilometre rule (Rule 5(3)(a)).
- Rule 5(3)(b) provides for service of notices and pleadings by way of facsimile or electronic mail, provided that the other party does not have any opposition.
- The previous Rule 15 that allowed a Defendant to apply for a document or account upon which a Plaintiff’s action is based has been deleted. Therefore, one may only ask for the document or account at the stage of discovery.
- Rule 16 has also been deleted. A party can no longer request further particulars of a pleading. The pleading must contain sufficient detail to enable the other party to reply thereto. If a pleading does not contain sufficient detail, the other party may except or give notice of an irregular proceeding in terms of Rule 60A.
- The Defendant has now twenty days within which to deliver his or her plea as opposed to the previous ten days.
- With respect to applications, the period within which a Respondent can expect a return date of an order granted ex parte, has been increased to 24 hours as opposed to the previous 12 hours’ notice.
- In terms of Rule 55(1), all applications must be supported by an affidavit whereas before, it was not a requisite that an application be supported by an affidavit.
In essence, the Magistrates Court Rules have been amended to mirror that of the Uniform Rules of Court. Legislature presumably foresees that by doing so, the judicial system will become more efficient.