On 14 December 2022, Gert Nel Incorporated filed an application with the Constitutional Court of South Africa. The application primarily aims to have the civil trial date and default judgment application processes adopted by the Gauteng Division of the High Court, Pretoria, declared unconstitutional and invalid. These processes are regulated by a number of practice directives, the implementation of which has had the ultimate effect of infringing upon the applicants’ constitutionally enshrined rights to equality, human dignity, and access to courts. The applicants cited are but six of thousands of victims who have suffered injury or loss as a result of the negligent or otherwise wrongful driving of motor vehicles and are impeded from obtaining speedy, just, and equitable relief.
The rights of these victims are being trampled on and their lives destroyed due to the unnecessary delays in finalizing their matters negating any reasonable chance of physical, emotional or financial rehabilitation.
At the outset, the application asks for direct access to the apex court in terms of section 167(6)(a) of the Constitution and on the basis not only that it addresses issues of significant public interest and seeks the efficient delivery of just and equitable relief, but also that it would be inappropriate to ask a High Court Judge to make a pronouncement on the constitutional validity of the very practice directives they are bound to uphold.
Rule 18(3) of the Rules of the Constitutional Court requires a person or party wishing to oppose such an application to notify the applicant and the Registrar in writing of their intention to oppose within 10 days after lodgment. Respondents had until 25 January 2023 to file such a notice, taking into account the Constitutional Court’s dies non period of 17 December to 15 January. Only the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Respondents gave notice of their intention to oppose the application.Practitioners litigating in the North Gauteng High Court were this week informed that no new trial dates will be allocated. Word on the ground is that a new practice directive is in the process of being finalized one can only hope that it will open the doors of the Court to the thousands in desperate need of justice and will provide transparency and prevent “exploitation by court officials”.