Coronavirus forces courts into lockdown_1

Courts in Gauteng have been placed on lockdown in the latest bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. This as the number of confirmed cases in South Africa on Monday rose to 62 and in the wake of President Cyril Ramaphosa declaring a national state of disaster. In a directive issued at the start of the week, the Judge President in Gauteng, Dunstan Mlambo, said members of the public would be barred from attending court until the start of the second term in mid-April. “Only practitioners, witnesses and accused persons are permitted to attend,” he said. In addition,...
Courts in Gauteng have been placed on lockdown in the latest bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

This as the number of confirmed cases in South Africa on Monday rose to 62 and in the wake of President Cyril Ramaphosa declaring a national state of disaster.

In a directive issued at the start of the week, the Judge President in Gauteng, Dunstan Mlambo, said members of the public would be barred from attending court until the start of the second term in mid-April.

“Only practitioners, witnesses and accused persons are permitted to attend,” he said. In addition, a moratorium has been placed on introductions – whereby lawyers customarily introduce themselves to judges in chambers, ahead of appearing before them in court.

“All introductions are suspended,” Mlambo said on Monday, “Judges will not shake hands with any practitioners.”

He also indicated that no new matters – except for those deemed urgent – would be enrolled this term and that the courts would be running on skeleton staff, advising judges who did not have matters in court that they should work from home.

“When a judge is working from home, [they] should make a determination, based on the nature of the work to be done, whether [their] secretary may also work from home,” the judge president said. “Individual case management should be conducted by teleconference/Skype per arrangement between the parties and the appointed judge.”

The judge president’s announcement follows similar moves in other countries including Australia, where it was this week reported that all new jury trials in the South Australian District Court would be postponed until May.

It was unclear at the time of publishing whether the new measures outlined in Mlambo’s directive would also apply to the lower courts but the office of the chief justice is expected to meet on Tuesday to discuss the issue further, after which more details should be available.

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