Technology to the rescue as SA chief justice Mogoeng restricts court access

South Africa’s Chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has issued a directive restricting court attendance as one of the measures adopted by heads of court to curb the spread of Covid-19 in courts around the country.

According to the directive published on Friday, only people with a material interest in a case – such as litigants, accused, witnesses and those who may be needed to provide support, such as those accompanying children, victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse, the elderly and people with disabilities – will be permitted to enter courts.

Family members, representatives of special interest or support groups and journalists will also be allowed.

The directive says non-essential visitors will only be allowed into the court precinct with the permission of the head of court.

Audio-visual remand (AVR) centres in correctional centres linked to magistrates’ courts will be used for postponing cases where the accused is in custody.

Witnesses who are in foreign countries will not be summonsed to attend a trial in the republic. In instances where such cases cannot be postponed to a further date, such testimony may be obtained through electronic means, reads the directive.

It was published in a government gazette on Friday, with Mogoeng invoking section 165 of the constitution and section 8(3) of the Superior Courts Act in issuing the measures.

“Unless circumstances otherwise dictate, the directives shall be in force for a period of 60 days from the date of publication,” reads the gazette.