How to find a divorce lawyer in Cape Town, South Africa

Efficiency of South African Magistrates

One question which I often get asked by clients in divorce matters is how efficient our Magistrates are. In the High Court we have “Judges”, while in the Regional Court, the presiding official is referred to as a “Magistrate”. Some attorneys would argue that the High Court is the safer route to go, where the judges make better decisions than magistrates in the Regional Court.

Recently a magistrate from Mitchells Plain had misinformed the Law Society when he had sought to practise as an attorney at the same time as being a magistrate, claiming the move had been approved by the magistrates’ commission. He was removed as a magistrate after his misrepresentation was found to be “dishonest”.

In another case, a magistrate in George was found guilty of five charges against her and now faces a further charge of committing perjury, which related to the magistrate having lied under oath. One of the charges was one where as an attorney she had withheld money she had won for a pensioner client until forced to return it when the Law Society got involved.

Apparently the magistrate from George was a big gambler too and had spent about R9 million at a local casino, and had also often gave the casino a cheque for cash which later bounced. That magistrate had also intimidated an estate agent when that agent refused to return a deposit the magistrate had made on a property she had changed her mind about.

A Free State magistrate was also recently accused of being drunk while hearing a case. It was discussed in a portfolio committee that the man had an alcohol problem and seemed to be unrehabilitatable alcoholic.

In another case, an Eastern Cape magistrate allegedly tried to get an investigating officer to drop charges against a stock thief and also allegedly harassed and threatened an Indian businessman, allegedly saying if he did not sign an agreement with an employee, he “would send him back to Bangladesh”.

Fortunately in my career, I have never had any problem with any presiding officer in either the Cape Town Regional Divorce Court or in the Cape Town High Court. The magistrates who I have dealt with have been more than reasonable in handling the divorce matters I have dealt with.

The examples used above merely illustrate that just like there are some unethical attorneys, there are also unethical magistrates. That does not however mean that all magistrates are unethical. The Cape Town Regional Court, previously known as the Southern Divorce Court, has over the years had most efficient and competent magistrates.

The magistrates at the divorce court in Cape Town are always at court on time, and put in hard, lengthy hours to settle a huge case load of acrimonious matters. It cannot be an easy job and credit has to be given to them for this hard work, which often goes unnoticed.


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