Updated High Court Directives in light of COVID-19

Apr 21, 2020 | , | News

As we indicated in our article of 27 March 2020, the High Court only allows for limited matters during the national lockdown.

The Cape Town High Court has issued three directives regarding the proceedings during the national lockdown which came to effect on 24 March 2020, 6 April 2020 and on 17 April 2020.

The directives regulating proceedings currently in the Cape Town High Court can be summarized as follow:

Urgent matters

Only urgent motion applications will be issued and / or heard, including matters relating to –

1. COVID 19;
2. bail;
3. urgent maintenance;
4. domestic violence related matters; and
5. cases involving children.

Should a debt prescribe during the lockdown, or there is a reasonable apprehension that the debt will prescribe, the issuing of an application / summons will be allowed.

The issuing of applications, actions and further process (warrants of execution and subpoenas) other than those mentioned above will not be allowed. For the sake of clarity, the issuing for an application for default judgement is also suspended.

Evictions and Rule 46A applications to declare property executable are suspended until after the lockdown period unless ordered by a judicial officer in the interests of Justice.


Enrollment of matters

No new civil matter will be enrolled during the lockdown, this include trials, appeals, reviews, unopposed and opposed motions.

Civil matters that have already been enrolled must be postponed to a date after the lockdown to a date arranged with the relevant Clerk, being either the Third- or Fourth Division Clerk.

If the return date for a Rule Nisi matter falls within the lockdown period, which includes eviction matters, arrangements should be made with the Judge on motion court duty in order to extend the date.



Urgent matters may be served by the Sheriff during the lockdown, however the service by the Sheriff of all other matters should be suspended until after the lockdown. Where service by the Sheriff is required, a chamber book application may be brought for an order of service by the Sheriff, which application may be e-mail to the Chief Registrar (RDavid@judiciary.org.za).

Service of a document that is required to be delivered in terms of the Uniform Rules via e-mail will be sufficient and need not be filed at the Court during the lockdown. The court file should however be updated with all documents served after the lockdown and prior to the hearing thereof.

Where a notice of intention to defend, notice to defend, notice to oppose or plea is served via e-mail, the Chief Registrar must be included in the e-mail communication.

Given the above, it is clear that the lockdown period is not regarded as dies non.


Civil Pre-trials

All civil pre-trails must be postponed until after the lockdown and by making arrangement with the relevant Judge’s secretary.

No new civil pre-trials will be allocated during April 2020.


Criminal matters

All criminal trials, appeals and pre-trials will be suspended and postponed in the absence of the accused person during the lockdown period. An accused person’s representative may appear or arrange with the DPP for the postponement.

Criminal pre-trials set-down for 24 April 2020 will be dealt with on 22 April 2020. Any further pre-trials affected by any further extensions of the lockdown period will be dealt with on the first working day of that week as arranged with the DPP, practitioners for the accused and the relevant Judicial Officer.



There will be no Authentication / Apostille services offered during the lockdown period unless it involves an essential service.

No new applications for taxation dates, settled and consented to bills will be allowed during the lockdown period.

Heads of argument in respect of matters already set down may be sent to the relevant Judge’s secretary via e-mail or relevant clerk at Registrar’s office.

The High Court building will not be accessible during the lockdown period except for the duty Judge, his/her secretary, the chief Registrar, Court Manager, relevant court staff, security personnel and practitioners for urgent matters and persons with a material interest in such matter.

Access to the High Court building will further be subject to and governed by paragraph 2 of the amended Directions of the Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002 by the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services (Government Notice R.440 in Government Gazette 43191 of 31 March 2020).

Kindly note that the above is merely a summary of the relevant directives. If you have queries, please feel free to contact us.


*Disclaimer: This advisory should not be interpreted as legal advice.

Author: Petra van Vuuren

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