The court system that existed in South Africa prior to the democratic transition was left largely intact. The main and local seats of the former provincial divisions of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Courts in the former homelands were retained and incorporated into the new judicial system.
The Constitution, however, envisioned in item 16(6)(a) of schedule 6 that as soon as practical the structure, composition, functioning and jurisdiction of all courts would be rationalised with a view to “establishing a judicial system suited to the requirements of the Constitution”. The requirements of the Constitution that our judicial system must meet include giving full effect to the right of access to justice as well as the rights and foundational values of dignity and equality.
While some efforts have been made towards rationalising the court system, the process is far from complete. The legacy of colonialism and apartheid continues to plague South Africa with spatial injustices and to impede access to courts for communities that reside in the areas that formed part of the defunct homelands and selfgoverning territories, as well as remote rural villages. These communities are frequently forced to travel long distances, at a huge cost, to access courts.
The Committee on the Rationalisation of Areas under the Jurisdiction of the Divisions of the High Court and Judicial Establishments (“the Committee”) was established with a view to resolving this unjust situation and complying with the constitutional injunction to rationalise the jurisdictions of all courts to establish a judicial system suited to the requirements of the Constitution.
Comments must be submitted before 31 January 2023, to Mr Makena Z Moagi (Email: MakMoagi@justice.gov.za) or Adv Seakamela (Email: SSeakamela@justice.gov.za).