Public banned from courts amid coronavirus outbreak

The public has been banned from attending court cases due to coronavirus outbreak
The public has been banned from attending court cases due to coronavirus outbreak
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

The office of the Judge President in Gauteng has limited public access to courts until April 14 as a measure to prevent Covid-19 from spreading are put into place.

"No member of the public is permitted to enter the Court building, or to attend any hearings, whether Civil or Criminal, as a spectator. Only practitioners, witnesses and accused persons are permitted to attend," Gauteng Judge President Dunstan Mlambo said on Monday. 

He said counsel are advised not to attend Judges’ chambers for purposes of introductions and that all introductions are suspended. He added that judges will not shake hands with any practitioners.

He further said that judges who are not scheduled for sittings in Court will be required to work from home.

“When a Judge is working from home, s/he should make a determination, based on the nature of the work to be done, whether his/her Secretary may also work from home. In that event, the Judge President must be advised accordingly, and Judges’ Secretaries must remain available and accessible to carry out whatever duties may be required from home, including monitoring and responding to emails, maintaining telephone contact with practitioners etc.”

Mlambo said general court staff section heads should determine the minimum number of staff required to report for work to ensure that the work of the court is completed.

Mlambo announced that only judges and staff will deal with matters that are already enrolled for hearing.

Mlambo said this would be in effect if the parties agree to postpone matters that have been enrolled during this period.

“In such event, parties must alert the relevant Judge’s Secretary of any agreed postponement as a matter of urgency," he said.

Mlambo’s announcement comes a day after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that coronvirus had become a national disaster.

“We have now declared a national state of disaster in terms of the Disaster Management Act. This will enable us to have an integrated and co-ordinated disaster management mechanism that will focus on preventing and reducing the outbreak of this virus,” the president said.

Government will now also be able to set up emergency, rapid and effective response systems to mitigate the severity of its impact, he said.

To date, a total of 62 people have been confirmed to have contracted the virus with Gauteng having the highest number at 31, Western Cape at 16, KwaZulu-Natal at 12 and Mpumalanga at 2 and Limpopo at 1.

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