New domestic violence laws in South Africa – what you need to know

 ·14 Apr 2023

President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed new directives in terms of the Domestic Violence Act, 2021, which commences on Friday, 14 April 2023.

The new Act aims to aid the country in its endemic of widespread gender-based violence as well as the harm done against children within a household.

The amendments increase the level of monitoring imposed on perpetrators and allow for applications for protection orders on behalf of victims with written consent.

It further provides more authority to adults who suspect a child is exposed to violence and criminalises the failure to report domestic abuse in South Africa.

The latest round of amendments deal primarily with procedural matters relating to cases of domestic violence. Under the proclamation, stricter duties have been imposed on office managers, supervisors and clerks of the court when dealing with cases of domestic violence.

The amendment act, in essence, ensures that court officials remain updated and well-informed about regulatory changes and attend annual training on directives relating to domestic abuse.

Further changes include the arranging of an intermediary to assist persons who need an intermediary during the hearing of any application and an interpreter if need be.

The changes enacted under this Act, reaffirm the government’s commitment to tackling domestic violence in South Africa and treating it with the necessary care and seriousness within court proceedings that it deserves.

The Act now prescribes court managers compile after-hours duties every month, providing a contact detail that can be contacted outside of normal court hours, including weekends, public holidays and more.

As a result, victims of domestic violence can apply for protection orders after-hours.

For those who apply for a protection order but do not have a legal representative, the clerk of court is now prescribed to assist the victim in the process and furnishing of the order, in terms of the Act.

On top of these additional duties, when it comes to domestic abuse cases, the clerks of the court must allocate file numbers, submit applications and pass files on to the magistrate within strict timelines.

If a clerk does not comply with the new directives outlined in the proclamation, disciplinary action will take place against them. The clerk is further required to take appropriate steps to ensure that all documentation and evidence remain confidential.

Ultimately, the new amendments seek to smoothen the legal process of dealing with a case of domestic abuse – reducing red tape and holding those with the authority to deal with the issue accountable.

See the full proclamation attached below:

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