Magistrate (South Africa)

Magistrates' Courts of South Africa

South Africa

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Magistrates' Courts in South Africa are the lower courts and the courts of first instance and decide all matters as provided for by an act of parliament. As such, they deal with the great majority of court cases. The presiding officer in these courts is called a magistrate. There are more than 400 magistrates' courts served by more than 1,400 magistrates and 325 regional magistrates in South Africa.

The territory of South Africa is divided into approximately 350 magisterial districts, with each district having a district magistrate's court. A district court has jurisdiction over civil cases where the value of the claim is no more than R100,000, and over lesser criminal cases in which it can impose a sentence of up to three years' imprisonment and a fine of up to R60,000. A district magistrate cannot hear cases of murder, rape or robbery, or any other crime with a minimum sentence of more than three years.

A number of magisterial districts are grouped together into a region, with a regional magistrate's court. The regional court is a criminal court only, and can try all criminal matters except high treason. A regional magistrate can impose a sentence of up to fifteen years' imprisonment or a fine of up to R300,000. There are also a number of specialized regional courts that handle specific types of matters, such as the Sexual Offenses Courts and the Specialized Commercial Crimes Courts in the larger cities.

Appeals from the magistrates' courts are to the appropriate division of the High Court of South Africa.

Magistrates' courts may also not decide on the constitutionality of any legislation or on any conduct of the President.

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