Jurisdiction is “the power or competence which a particular court has to hear and determine an issue between parties brought before it” [see Graaff-Reinet Municipality v Van Ryneveld’s Pass Irrigation Board 1950 (2) SA 420 (A)].

That is because there are different types of courts, ie, Small Claims Court, District Magistrate Court, Regional Magistrate Court, High Court, Labour Court, Land Claims Court, Tax Court Supreme Court of Appeal, Constitutional Court.

Monetary value determines which court will have jurisdiction for a specific matter, ie matters on which claims are R20 000.00 or less are heard at the Small Claims Court. The higher the value of the claim, the more senior is the court required to hear that claim. This also applies to the seriousness of the case in criminal matters, the more serious a case is, the more senior the court the matter will have to be heard at.

Also, geographical area determines which specific court to institute proceedings at, ie if the defendant in a particular matter resides or works within the geographical area of jurisdiction of a particular court, or if the cause of action arose wholly in that area, that particular court will usually be entitled to hear the matter.


A resides in Ruimsig but works in Sandton and he collied with B’s car, at Johannesburg. B can sue A at Roodepoort Court (for Ruimsig – being where A resides) or at Randburg Court (for Sandton – being where A works) or at Johannesburg Central Court (being where the cause of action wholly arose).

Therefore, these 3 (three) elements determine jurisdiction:

  1. The value of the claim.
  2. The nature of the claim.
  3. The area to which the claim is linked.

It should be noted that there are specialized courts, which only deal with specialised matters, ie, Labour Court – which only deals with labour law related matters.

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