Eastern Cape Division

The Eastern Cape Division of the High Court of South Africa is a superior court of law with general jurisdiction over the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. The main seat of the division is at Makhanda, with subordinate local seats at Port Elizabeth, East London, Bhisho and Mthatha. As of November 2017 the Judge President of the division is Selby Mbenenge.

Eastern Cape Division of the High Court of South Africa
Established1864 (Eastern Districts Court)
LocationMakhanda (main seat), Bhisho, Mthatha, Port Elizabeth, East London (local seats)
Coordinates33°18′41″S 26°31′30″E / 33.3114°S 26.5251°E / -33.3114; 26.5251Coordinates: 33°18′41″S 26°31′30″E / 33.3114°S 26.5251°E / -33.3114; 26.5251
Composition methodPresidential appointment on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission
Authorized byChp. 8 of the Constitution; Superior Courts Act, 2013
Appeals toSupreme Court of Appeal or Constitutional Court
Judge President
CurrentlySelby Mbenenge


A superior court was first established at Grahamstown in 1864, as the Court of the Eastern Districts of the Cape of Good Hope, to ease access to justice for the residents of what is now the Eastern Cape.[1] The Eastern Districts Court was subordinate to the Supreme Court of the Cape of Good Hope in Cape Town, which had concurrent jurisdiction over the eastern districts.[2] When the Union of South Africa was created in 1910, the Eastern Districts Court became the Eastern Districts Local Division of the Supreme Court of South Africa.[2]

In 1957 the division was removed from the concurrent jurisdiction of the court at Cape Town and renamed as the Eastern Cape Provincial Division.[1] In 1974 the South Eastern Cape Local Division was established in Port Elizabeth to serve that city and the surrounding districts, although the Grahamstown court retained concurrent jurisdiction;[1] that court is now a local seat of the division.

In 1973 the Transkei was removed from the jurisdiction of the Grahamstown court when the Transkeian High Court was established at Mthatha. When the Transkei received nominal independence from South Africa, that court became the Supreme Court of the Transkei.[3] Initially decisions could still be appealed from the court to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of South Africa, but in 1979 an Appellate Division was established in the Supreme Court of Transkei.[4] A similar process took place in the Ciskei, which received nominal independence and established its own Supreme Court at Zwelitsha in 1981.[2] In 1984 an Appellate Division was established[5] and the court moved to new buildings in Bhisho.[6]

When the Transkei and Ciskei were reincorporated in South Africa on 27 April 1994, their Supreme Courts remained in existence, but three months later their Appellate Divisions were abolished and their jurisdiction transferred to the South African Appellate Division.[7] When the final Constitution came into force the remaining General Divisions became High Courts of South Africa, known as the Transkei Division[3] and the Ciskei Division. In 2013 under the Superior Courts Act, 2013 they became local seats of the Eastern Cape division, once again subordinate to Grahamstown.

In December 2019 the Eastern Cape Division of the High Court of South Africa ruled against the ban of children without birth certificates from receiving basic education in South Africa. The court ruled that "It is an important socioeconomic right directed, among other things, at promoting and developing a child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to his or her fullest potential" and that "Basic education also provides a foundation for a child’s lifetime learning and work opportunities."[8]


City Coordinates Jurisdiction Former names
(main seat)
33°18′41″S 26°31′30″E / 33.3114°S 26.5251°E / -33.3114; 26.5251 (Eastern Cape Division, Makhanda) Province of the Eastern Cape Court of the Eastern Districts; Eastern Districts Local Division; Eastern Cape Provincial Division; Eastern Cape High Court, Grahamstown
Bhisho 32°51′25″S 27°25′54″E / 32.8570°S 27.4317°E / -32.8570; 27.4317 (Eastern Cape Division, Bhisho) Territory of the former Ciskei, plus the districts of Cathcart, East London, King William's Town, Komga, Queenstown and Stutterheim Supreme Court of the Ciskei; Ciskei Division; Eastern Cape High Court, Bhisho
Mthatha 31°35′27″S 28°46′55″E / 31.5907°S 28.7819°E / -31.5907; 28.7819 (Eastern Cape Division, Mthatha) Territory of the former Transkei, except for the districts of Herschel, Umzimkulu and Maluti; plus the districts of Barkly East, Elliot, Indwe, Maclear and Ugie Transkeian High Court; Supreme Court of the Transkei; Transkei Division; Eastern Cape High Court, Mthatha
Port Elizabeth 33°57′53″S 25°37′09″E / 33.9647°S 25.6192°E / -33.9647; 25.6192 (Eastern Cape Division, Port Elizabeth) Districts of Hankey, Humansdorp, Joubertina, Kirkwood, Port Elizabeth, Steytlerville and Uitenhage South-Eastern Cape Local Division; Eastern Cape High Court, Port Elizabeth


  1. ^ a b c Rorke, SC; Rawjee, A (April 2010). "The High Court of the Eastern Cape" (PDF). Advocate. General Council of the Bar of South Africa. 23 (1): 40–41. Retrieved 31 December 2011.
  2. ^ a b c Randel, George. "History of the Eastern Cape Provincial Division" (PDF). Retrieved 31 December 2011.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ a b Sishuba, Mathobela (April 2010). "Eastern Cape High Court: Mthatha" (PDF). Advocate. General Council of the Bar of South Africa. 23 (1): 50–52. Retrieved 31 December 2011.
  4. ^ "Stare decisis — South Africa and Transkei". South African Law Journal. 98 (3): 353–358. August 1981. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  5. ^ Supreme Court Act No 2 of 1984 (Ciskei).
  6. ^ Cossie, CTS; Ntsaluba, TM (April 2010). "A brief history of the Eastern Cape High Court, Bhisho" (PDF). Advocate. General Council of the Bar of South Africa. 23 (1): 52. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  7. ^ Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Third Amendment Act 13 of 1994.
  8. ^ Africa, Ventures (2019-12-20). "South African government loses court case to bar child education". Ventures Africa. Retrieved 2020-01-19.

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