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South African apartheid era court names scrapped
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08:52, March 10, 2009

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South African apartheid-era names for courts such as the Transvaal Provincial Division of the High Court and the High Court of Bophuthatswana ceased to exist last week, the South African department of justice confirmed on Monday.

Justice ministry spokesman Zolile Nqayi said the name changes came into effect on March 1.

"These new names came into effect last Sunday when President Kgalema Motlanthe signed the Renaming of High Courts Act," Nqayi said.

According to the Act there would now be a division of the High Court in each of the nine provinces with a name matching that of the province. Some provinces however, would have more than one seat.

The Transvaal Provincial Division, which previously included the Pretoria and Johannesburg high courts, was one of those that would be divided. The North Gauteng High Court would be seated in Pretoria and the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg.

The High Courts in Bisho, Grahamstown, Mthatha and Port Elizabeth would fall under the Eastern Cape High Court.

The Pietermaritzburg and Durban high courts would become known as the KwaZulu-Natal High Court.

The North West High Court had its seat in Mafikeng.

The Venda High Court in Thohoyandou would be referred to as Limpopo High Court. The court in Kimberley would be renamed Northern Cape High Court.

The Cape High Court in Cape Town would be known as the Western Cape High Court. The Bloemfontein High Court would be known as the Free State High Court.

The bill was first introduced in Parliament in 2003 as the Superior Courts Bill, but was later withdrawn to allow more consultation.

Legal experts praised the Act, saying it would bring South Africa's courts in line with the democratic dispensation.

Deneys Reitz Attorneys said the new law would have an effect on commercial agreements.

"Frequently commercial agreements describe the court in which the proceedings will take place and the new names or the seat of court will have to be used," the firm said in a statement on its website.

High courts generally only hear civil matters exceeding 100,000 rand (9,400 U.S. dollars) and serious criminal cases. They have jurisdiction over certain other matters, such as sequestrations and matters that involve a person's status, such as adoption and insolvency.

They also hear any appeals or reviews from lower courts which fall in their geographical jurisdiction.


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