Only 'priority' matters to be heard by SA courts: Ronald Lamola

Justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola says only priority cases will be heard in courts during the lockdown.
Justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola says only priority cases will be heard in courts during the lockdown.

Cases involving children, domestic violence and abuse will be prioritised in South African courts during the lockdown.

This is according to new directives issued by justice and constitutional development minister Ronald Lamola under the Disaster Management Act.

"All criminal cases enrolled during alert level 4 must be postponed, save for prioritised cases or trials, those taking place within the context of the permitted services stipulated within the [lockdown] regulations or where special arrangements have been made with the judicial officer hearing the matter," said the department in a statement.

Trials relating to corruption, sexual offences, gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF), serious violent crimes, robbery, murder and violation of Covid-19 regulations will be prioritised.

"Matters where children are detained in child and youth care centres, as well as correctional centres, must be brought before the court for consideration of continued detention," said the department.

Civil cases that were not urgent should not be placed on the court roll, said the minister.

Matters that will be heard include:

  • child and spousal maintenance proceedings;
  • protection orders in terms of the Domestic Violence Act and the Protection from Harassment ;
  • foster care applications and hearings;
  • matters in respect of the care and contact as of children;
  • international child abduction cases; and
  • adoption applications and hearings.

According to the minister's directives, a person who in the past 14 days has been in contact with or exposed to another person who has tested positive for Covid-19 (except a person who had tested positive but has recovered and subsequently tested negative) may not be allowed to enter a courtroom, courthouse or a justice service point during the state of national disaster.

"Access to the courts is limited to persons with a material interest in a case, provided that a judicial officer directs the number of persons in a room be reduced to comply with safety measures and social distancing requirements."

Those wishing to make use of Legal Aid South Africa can only access telephonic advice services. The call centre number is 0800 110 110.

"The measures are in keeping with the national effort to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in all justice service points," added the department.