The governing authorities of South Africa are divided into three areas, namely legislative, executive and judicial. A main part of the judicial system in South Africa is the approximately 300 magisterial districts, each with a Magistrate's Court. The magistrate has jurisdiction in the district in which he or she is appointed and has the authority to maintain law and order to promote a well-ordered society.

The magistrate has two main functions to fulfil, namely a judicial function and a district administrative function:

Judicial function: The magistrate’s primary function is to adjudicate in both civil and criminal cases, to return a verdict and convict those who have been found guilty of unlawful commissions or omissions. The magistrate has jurisdiction in civil cases, that is, in disputes between private individuals, and in criminal cases where infringement of the law of the country and a common law is committed. Those standing trial and found guilty, are convicted. In civil cases the rights and responsibilities of individuals must be protected and/or enforced by the magistrate. In serious cases, a preliminary hearing may take place in the Magistrate’s Court and thereafter the case may be referred to the Supreme Court.

In the large centres the judicial duties of the magistrate are more specialised. They adjudicate in either civil, criminal courts or juvenile courts. The magistrate is assisted by a prosecutor and one or more clerks to perform clerical and/or administrative duties such as the issuing of subpoenas, warrants of arrest etx.

Aministration function: In addition to judicial duties the magistrate also has many administrative tasks. The magistrate often acts as a representative for other state departments and may, for instance, act as a receiver of revenue, registrar of births, marriages and deaths, and other similar duties. They may also serve on various committees and boards.

As soon as the magistrate obtains the minimum legal qualification for appointment as regional magistrate and is appointed to a particular region, they are placed in the regional office division. The offices of the regional divisions are in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, Bloemfontein and Kimberley.

Personal Requirements

  • good knowledge and understanding of human behaviour
  • able to judge people correctly and fairly
  • agreeable and tolerant
  • good general knowledge
  • good problem-solving skills
  • able to stay calm and objective
  • intelligent and able to reason logically
  • fluent in more than one official language
  • tactful, fair and have integrity
  • exhibit exemplary behaviour at all times
  • inspire confidence that the trial will be fair


Department of Justice

The magistrate who has an LLB degree can become a regional magistrate.

Getting Started

  • arrange to speak to a magistrate to obtain first- hand information about this field
  • try to obtain vacation work in a law office
  • attend open court sessions
  • join a debating society and take part in discussions


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