The South African courts are well known for their backlogs on court rolls and deferred “trial dates”. The Commercial Court (“CC”) has been revived by the Gauteng Division of the High Court of South Africa. The effect of this is that companies can now approach the CC to resolve company disputes faster and more efficiently.

The CC is mandated to hear and adjudicate matters pertaining to:

  1. the export or import of goods;
  2. banking and financial services;
  3. insurance and re-insurance;
  4. medical scheme matters; and
  5. intellectual property cases.

Both motion proceedings and action proceedings can be adjudicated in the CC. The CC is mandated to only adjudicate company law related cases by judges who have commercial experience. Once a matter is referred to the CC, a “case manager” (which will be a judge) will be appointed to manage all proceedings and related administration related to such matter. The case manager’s duties and responsibilities include, inter alia:

  1. administration issues;
  2. filing of affidavits and pleadings;
  3. filing heads of argument; and
  4. running the actual hearing or trial.

In the ordinary courts, cases are often postponed because they are not ripe for hearing. The CC has implemented the process of holding frequent pre-trial conferences to remedy this with the aim to prevent the postponement of cases and ensuring that cases are trial ready. This process prevents parties from stalling the court processes with administrative issues such as late fillings and submissions or requests for change of dates.

Currently, the CC only operates in the Pretoria High Court and Johannesburg High Court. Parties wanting to transfer their cases to the CC will have to apply by sending a letter to the Judge President or to the Deputy Judge President and provide reasons for the referral of their matter to the CC.

The CC will be a great asset to the South African legal industry as it will assist with the backlog of the current court roles and will lead to a more specialised and efficient way of handling company matters.

05 November 2018