As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge around the world, South Africa has been putting several measures into effect in response to the nationwide lockdown which began on 26 March 2020.
On 3 May 2020, the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, after consultation with the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, issued a Direction to address, prevent and combat the spread of COVID-19 in all courts, court precincts and justice service points in the Republic of South Africa. The Directions published by Government Notice No.440 of 31 March 2020 are replaced by these Directions.
The following Directions provide for the management of Alert Level 4 permitted legal services as listed in Annexure 1. These services include the following:
– In stances where the accused is in custody and unopposed bail applications, if the charges in question are listed in schedules 1, 5 or 6 of the Criminal Procedure Act, audio-visual link, teleconferences, videoconference and any other electronic mode may be used to postpone such matters.
– Civil matters to be dealt with online, in writing, or telephonically
Family Law matters
– Child and spousal maintenance proceedings; protection orders in terms of the Domestic Violence Act, or the protection from harassment applications, will be able to go ahead.
Master of the High Court
– The offices of the Master of the High Court will also render its service during this time, which will include payments to natural guardians, tutors and curators on behalf of minors and persons under curatorship. The office will also process documentation required for the burial of a deceased person and the urgent appointment of curators.
These Directions are to be read in conjunction with the directives issued by the Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng in terms of section 8(3) of the Superior Courts Act, 2013, and the directives issued by the relevant Heads of Courts in the Superior Courts and Magistrates/Lower Courts, from time to time.
In an instance where these Directions do not deal with circumstances that relate to a particular Court, the Heads of Court shall issue Directions which address and manage those particular circumstances provided that the Directions are not inconsistent with those placed by the Chief Justice.
Please note that the directives issued by the Heads of Courts will differ depending on the court and jurisdictional area.
Please note that further directions may be issued in due course, or may have been issued to date, in light of ongoing developments around the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa.
Author: Thina Makaula