The Commercial Court has recently been revived in the Gauteng Division of the High Court of South Africa. This Court was originally established in terms of the Supreme Court Act 59 of 1959 (Practice Note No. 1 of 1996: Commercial Court Practice Direction), but was never fully operational. However, the Judge President of the Gauteng Divisions of the High Court of South Africa, Justice Dunstan Mlambo recently published the directives of the Commercial Court, effective from 3 October 2018.
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, and includes disputes arising from the following non-exhaustive list:
- 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;
- delictual cases that take place in a commercial context for, e.g. unlawful competition cases;
- generally, appropriate contractual matters; and
- intellectual property cases.
Litigants may transfer a trial action or an application in a commercial matter to the Commercial Court by delivering a letter to the Judge President or Deputy Judge President, setting out reasons why the case is a commercial case, or should be considered as such, which would warrant a transfer under the Commercial Court Directive.
The Commercial Court Directive is specifically designed to ensure that matters are trial ready by the inclusion of various case management conferences, the resolution of interlocutory matters and by introducing timetables by which the litigants will be bound.