Litigation in South Africa commences when you take legal action by taking a matter to Court. The process starts by issuing a summons. First, you need to determine which Court has jurisdiction; once you have determined the Court, you attend to the Court to issue your summons.

Different types of Courts in South Africa

The South African courts are structured in a hierarchy, from the highest Court to the lower Court.
The Constitutional Court (CC) only hears matters of a constitutional nature and is never a court of first instance. The Constitutional Court will only be a court of first instance if the matter is a constitutional matter in terms of Section 164(7) of the Constitution of South Africa. 1 This will only be applicable if the person has permission from the Constitutional Court to bring a matter to the Constitutional Court and it is in the interest of justice.

The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), formally known as the Appellate Division, is the second highest Court in South Africa. The SCA hears appeal matters except in Labour and competition matters. The appeals would originate from a lower court. The CC can only overturn the decision of the SCA. However, the SCA may overturn its own decision.

For your matter to be heard in the above courts, Litigation had to start in the High Court, the Magistrate’s Court, or a court created by an Act of Parliament. The Courts created by an Act of Parliament could be the Small Claims Court, Labour Court, Children’s Court and Maintenance Court.

Deciding on the correct Court

The courts may only be competent if it falls within their jurisdiction. Therefore, it is essential to know which Court can hear your matter. The matter type will determine the Court’s jurisdiction, such as the value of your claim. If your matter is below R12 000, you will institute proceedings in the Small Claims Court. If your matter is below R 200 000, your matter will preside in the District Magistrate’s Court. If your matter is above R 200 000, but below R400 000, your matter will preside in the Regional Magistrate’s Court; and if your matter is above R400 000, your matter will be heard in the High Court.

Different factors will influence the jurisdiction of a claim. For example, the Labour Court may only preside over Labour matters in terms of the Labour Relations Act[1] or any other Labour Legislation in South Africa. A court will only have jurisdiction over a matter if the Defendant resides or is domiciled within the geographical area in which the Court is situated or where the cause of action arose. 


Knowing which Court has jurisdiction to preside over your matter is imperative. For Litigation to commence, you must institute your matter in the correct Court. Litigation can get complex in Court, and it is essential to appoint an attorney to assist you.

Contact an attorney at SchoemanLaw Inc for your legal needs!