Ten special Municipal Courts operate within the City of Cape Town. By-law or traffic offenders are able to pay their fines at these courts during working hours.
The courts also accept fines for violations of national or provincial legislation.
"Each of the Cape Town Municipal Courts deals with between 500 and 1 000 cases each day," says City Legal Manager Bongiwe Mabanga.
A monthly record is kept of these cases, including details such as the names of the magistrate and prosecutor involved, types of charges laid, fines paid and the development of the case.
The Wynberg and Cape Town Municipal Courts are the busiest and prosecute cases from Monday to Friday. The Cape Town court is situated at City Hall and was the first to be opened in South Africa, in April 2000.
Mabanga says that some of the courts do not handle cases every day because there is a shortage of magistrates and prosecutors. Fines can, however, be paid daily.
The Municipal Courts were introduced through a legislative framework provided by the National Prosecutorial Act to deal with minor offences occurring within municipalities. The initiative, which is a partnership between local government, the Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, commenced in 2000. "We have a very close relationship with the partners involved," says Mabanga.
Some of the Municipal Courts operate within Magistrate's Courts, for example in Atlantis, Blue Downs, Somerset West, Simon's Town and Parow. Magistrate's Courts deal with criminal matters such as shoplifting, theft, assault and murder. If a fine is not paid at a Municipal Court, the matter is transferred to a Magistrate's Court for sentencing.
A fine issued by a traffic officer must be paid within 30 days. If it is not, a notice is issued and then a second one if this is ignored. If the fine remains unpaid, the Metro Police Department issues a summons with a court date. Should the person fail to appear on that date, a warrant of arrest is issued. An amount of R300 then has to be paid for not appearing in court, as well as the fine.
If a speeding offence has been captured on camera, a notice is issued and delivered through the post within 30 days and then the same procedure is followed. In the case of a safety belt not being fastened, however, a court date will be given immediately by an officer.
An admission of guilt is usually paid for traffic fines but in the case of other violations, such as a person watering a garden between 10am and 5pm, a maximum R500 spot fine can be issued by the City's Water Department inspectors.
The City generates an income from fines, which is transferred to the department concerned. For instance, if a person is caught breaking a water by-law, his or her fine will be transferred to the Water Services Department.
The Municipal Courts' administration staff were trained in customer relations in May. Team leaders were appointed to monitor daily operations and address problems that affect customer service. They also monitor daily complaints, ensure that they are dealt with and report these to the City's Legal Department.
"The aim is for the department to identify problems, such as difficulties in delivering a good service, so that control measures can be put in place," says Mabanga.
Office hours for Municipal Courts are 7.45am to 4.15pm, cash offices close at 3 pm and the courts sit from 9am. Each court also has a complaints box for written complaints.
For information about legal services, such where to pay a traffic fine, where to address a letter to a prosecutor or a fine reduction, contact the toll-free number 0800 53250.
The following Municipal Courts do not prosecute every day, but fines can be paid there from 7.45am to 3pm:
- Atlantis Municipal Court: Wesfleur Municipal Building, Wesfleur Circle, Wesfleur.
- Blue Downs Municipal Court: Butskop Road, Blackheath.
- Goodwood Municipal Court: Hugo Street, Goodwood.
- Mitchells Plain Municipal Court: 1st Avenue, Eastridge.
- Parow Municipal Court: Beacon Street, Parow.
- Simon's Town Municipal Court: Simon's Town Library House, St George's Street, Simon's Town.
- Somerset West Municipal Court: Caledon Street, Strand.
- Strand Municipal Court: Cnr of Main Road and Piet Retief Street, Strand.
The following courts prosecute daily:
- Wynberg Municipal Court: Church Street, Wynberg.
- Cape Town Municipal Court: City Hall, opposite the Grand Parade.