Small Claims Court

One of the difficulties facing a layman, who wishes to sue someone else, is that the Magistrates’ Court and the High Court have lots of forms, rules and formalities. Unless you want to work it all out for yourself, and take some risk, this means that it is far better to engage the services of professionals – attorneys and advocates – to do the job. That, of course, means legal fees.

The Small Claims Court Act 1984 avoids all of this when it comes to claims of lesser significance – or smaller monetary value.1 The procedures are simplified, and legal representation is not allowed. Moreover, companies are not permitted to sue in the Small Claims Court.

These courts form part of our system of justice, and so the ultimate authority of the Act falls with the Minister of Justice. There are hundreds of Small Claims Courts, spread amongst most towns and cities.

  1. Any person who:
    • obstructs a messenger or deputy messenger of the court in the execution of his duties under the Act; or
    • fails to give notice of change of address, is guilty of an offence.2
  2. It is a crime to insult a commissioner during the session of his court, as well as any clerk or messenger or other officer present at that session.3

  3. It is a crime to interrupt the proceedings of a court, or otherwise misbehave where the session is held.4
  1. At present, the jurisdictional level of the Small Claims Courts is R20 000. That means that a claim for greater value must proceed in a higher court – the Magistrates’ Court, or the High Court. 

  2. Section 47. 

  3. Section 48(1). 

  4. Section 48(1).