Commercial Court re-established to speed up litigation

Recently the office of the Judge President of the Gauteng High Court division of South Africa released a Commercial Court Practice Directive which comes into effect immediately, creating a specialised Commercial Court administered as part of the High Court.

The purpose of the Commercial Court is to promote the efficient conduct of litigation in the High Court and will assist litigants with the faster resolution of commercial matters.

The Commercial Court will deal with a variety of matters that have their foundation in a commercial transaction or commercial relationship. For a case to be considered by the Commercial Court, the claim must relate to, amongst others, the following:

  • the export or import of goods;
  • the carriage of goods by land, sea, air or pipeline;
  • the exploitation of oil and gas reserves or other natural resources that do not involve Administrative Law;
  • insurance and reinsurance;
  • banking and financial services;
  • the operation of markets and exchanges;
  • the purchase and sale of commodities;
  • medical scheme matters;
  • commercial matters arising out of business rescue and insolvency cases;
  • all commercial matters affecting companies arising out of the Companies Act 71 of 2008 and its interpretation;
  • arbitration;
  • delictual cases that take place in a commercial context for, e.g. unlawful competition cases;
  • generally, appropriate contractual matters; and
  • intellectual property cases.

In order for matters to be resolved faster, a Case Manager (who is a Judge) will, depending on availability, be appointed to a commercial case in its early stage. The Case Manager will hold a conference with the parties involved – to discuss preliminary admin issues such as the filing of affidavits, heads of argument, and the date and length of the actual hearing – prior to the case being heard in the Commercial Court.

Parties wishing to transfer their matter to the Commercial Court must apply by way of a letter to the Judge President or Deputy Judge President, listing reasons why their matter is commercial or should be considered as such.

As the directive was issued by the Judge President of the Gauteng Provincial Division, the court will only be established in the Pretoria and Johannesburg High Courts for now. The success of this court will determine whether this is adopted by other jurisdictions.

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