Not Happy with a Civil Court Order in South Africa?  Here are Your Options

If you are unhappy with a civil court order in South Africa, it is essential to know that legal processes are available to challenge the decision. The two primary methods of challenging a court decision are a review or an appeal. However these are not the only options available.

This article will focus on civil matters and the civil courts in South Africa. 

Overview of Options

Generally speaking, reviews are used to challenge the lawfulness or procedural correctness of a lower court’s decision. A review focuses on whether the court followed the correct legal process in making its decision, rather than whether it was correct. An application for review must be filed within a limited time after the decision is made. This would depend on the Court where the matter was first heard.

On the other hand, appeals are used to challenge the correctness of a court’s decision. An appeal focuses on whether the decision was correct or incorrect based on the evidence and legal principles applicable in the case. In a Magistrate’s Court, there is an automatic right to appeal to the High Court. In a High Court, an appeal can be initiated by filing a notice of appeal with the High Court itself or directly with the Supreme Court of Appeal within a limited time after the decision was made. It is important to note that a request for reasons for the decision must be made before the a request for leave to appeal is initiated. 

While reviews and appeals are the primary methods of challenging a court decision, variation of a court order is also an option. In the case of correcting an obvious error or oversight by the court may do so on own accord without the need of a formal application. There are limited circumstances within which this may occur. In any other circumstances where a court order was made a party can apply for a variation of the order by filing an application with the same court that made the original order. Variation is generally a suitable remedy where there is prior knowledge of the order. 

Finally, a rescission of judgment application could also be an option, specifically if the order was made based on some form of error. Again the circumstances are limited and therefore electing the best and post suitable option to remedy your position is paramount. 


The time limits for initiating a review or appeal and applying for a variation of a court order are generally relatively short. Therefore, it is vital to act quickly if you wish to challenge a court decision. In addition, seeking the advice of an attorney who can guide you through the process and help you understand your options is always advisable. Contact an Attorney at SchoemanLaw Inc today!

Nicolene Schoeman-Louw | SchoemanLaw Inc

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