The Judicial authority
The Judicial authority of the Republic of South Africa is vested in the courts. These provisions are contained in Section 165 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996.
The courts are independent and subject only to the Constitution and the law, which they must apply impartially and without fear, favour or prejudice.
No person or organ of state may interfere with the functioning of the courts.
The Constitutional Court
On December 2012, the Constitution 17th Amendment Act was passed into law and it entrenched the Constitutional Court as the highest court in the land and its decisions cannot be changed by any other court .
The Constitutional Court was born out of the country's first democratic Constitution in 1994. It is currently housed in an acclaimed building at Constitution Hill, and it is presided over by 11 Judges who stand guard over the Constitution and protect everyone's human rights.
The Supreme Court of Appeal
The Supreme Court of Appeal is based in Bloemfontein in the Free State Province. The Supreme Court of Appeal has Jurisdiction to hear and determine an appeal any decision of a High court
Except for the Constitutional Court, no other court can change a decision of the Supreme Court of Appeal. Only the Supreme Court of Appeal can change one of its own decisions.
The High Court’s hear any case which Exceeds the jurisdiction of the Magistrates’ Court or when a person or organisation goes to the court to change a decision of a Magistrates’ Court, which means appealing a case.
Cases of the High Court are listened to by one Judge, meaning a person with many years of practical experience. However, if it is a case on appeal, then at least two Judges must hear the case.
The Specialised Courts are:
- Competition Appeal Court
- Electoral Court
- Land Claims Court
- Labour and Labour Appeal Court
The Magistrates’ Courts are the lower courts which deal with less serious criminal and civil cases. They are divided into Regional Courts and District Courts. In Criminal Courts the state prosecutes people for breaking the law. Criminal Courts can be divided into two groups:
- Regional Magistrates’ Courts
- Ordinary Magistrates’ Courts (also called District Courts)