10 Everyday South African Legal Myths

Liberty Fighters Network (LFN) realises that most people don’t know their legal rights and always get a fright when cornered with a legal question, but most of the time it is not as bad as it seems. LFN Is of the view that our capitalist society wants to keep us all ignorant before the law, that is why it still has not implemented general law as a compulsory subject at school level already. Here is our list of only 10 everyday South African legal myths which could save you a lot of money, hardship and worries:-

Myth 1: I am going to be arrested if I don’t pay my debt.

False! The Constitutional Court has ruled during 1990’s already that it is unconstitutional to be imprisoned for debt. The reason for that is in essence that there are multitude of civil remedies available which can be used. The exception on this rule is that if a mother/father who was ordered to pay child support after a proper inquest into his/her financial position fails to do so, such person could be committed to jail but that is also as a very last resort. Next time when anyone tells you that you are going to be imprisoned because of failure to pay any debt, laugh at him.

Myth 2: My landlord may lock my door, switch off my electricity or throw my stuff out on the pavement if I don’t pay my rent for my flat.

False! Your landlord must first obtain a Court Order after serving the Notice of Application on you before he is allowed to do any of the above. It could not only be spoliation (taking law into his own hands), but it can also be criminal in certain circumstances. If ever you go through any of this, contact us immediately.

Myth 3: I must call a magistrate or judge “Your Worship” or “My Lord” in Court and if I don’t, I’ll go to jail.

False! If you are not an attorney or advocate, there is no law forcing you to call a presiding officer of any Court such a designation. A normal Sir or Madam would be sufficient and if the presiding officer demands you to, report him or her to either Magistrates Commission or Judicial Service Commission. A magistrate or judge is your equal. Remember that.

Myth 4: Only an attorney or advocate may appear for me in Court.

False! Anyone may represent himself or herself in Court. You don’t have to use a legal practitioner at all. You are advised to get a copy of the Rules of Court to follow, but the Constitutional Court ruled before that magistrates and judges must interpret the documents of a layman in the way it is intended and not be too strict in compliance to the rules and practices expected of a legal practitioner.

Myth 5: When my bondholding bank sues me, I will lose my home.

False! In most circumstances today, if your bondholding bank sues you to repossess your home the chances are very good that the bank securitized your loan already, meaning that it has sold your bond to someone else and that the bank does not have the right to sue you anymore. Banks also have credit risk insurance to protect them from bad debts and besides securitization they probably got a handsome payment from their insurer too. When you are sued for your arrears on your bond, contact us immediately for FREE legal advice.

Myth 6: Debt Collectors may harass me about my debt.

False! Debt collectors only have power if you give it to them. When they start contacting you telephonically, refuse bluntly to give or confirm any personal details over the phone. This is not only to prevent them from getting the authority from you to harass you, but it is in any event dangerous these days to give personal information over the phone. Send an email to them saying that they must stop to harass you. If they continue to harass you, they have contravened the Debt Collectors Conduct Code and may be disciplined by the Debt Collectors Board.

Myth 7: If I am ordered by a Magistrates Court to pay a debt or be evicted, it is the end of the line for me.

False! When the Magistrates Court makes an order against you, you have an automatic right to appeal to the High Court which would suspend the execution of that judgment automatically. You may use this process to stall the execution so that you can have more time to either get money or another place to move to. Yes, it will increase the legal costs, but the chances are good that you don’t have money in any case and adding extra might not make such a massive difference. You then would give your creditor an extra expense too and he could end up to abandon his claim altogether. Unfortunately a security payment of R1000 is to be paid into the court as well.

Myth 8: I must allow the Sheriff access to my place at all times.

False! If a Sheriff can’t identify himself by valid identity document (not Sheriff identity card which is not considered to be lawful identification) or attempt to execute a Court Order unlawfully obtained, you may lawfully refuse access to your home. Unfortunately sometimes the Police does get involved and will take the side of the Sheriff. Warn the Police that they are assisting with the execution of a crime and will be held accountable too. Use your video recording on your phone to record everything.

Myth 9: When the Police must arrest you, you must be kept in prison.

False! When a criminal charge has been opened against you or warrant of arrest issued, the Police has a discretion to keep you in prison, or notify you to appear in Court on a certain day and time. Unless a warrant to detain has been issued, you can negotiate with the Police to allow you to get to Court yourself and probably a small amount of bail could be requested. However if you don’t pitch up at Court when you are supposed to, chances are very good that you’ll be incarcerated until the end of your trail.

Myth 10: The metro police may confiscate my car if it is unlicensed.

False! The paperwork to get a car impounded is a lot. Usually for cars not on your name if you say that you bought your car a week ago and that you have been told that you have 21 days to get it registered on your name, should do the trick provided you cooperate and never be cocky. If the vehicle has been registered on your name before, a normal apology and that you’ll get it licensed soon because you had financial difficulty, should get you off the hook.

There are many others legal myths used daily in South Africa which we shall bring to your attention sooner than later. For FREE emergency legal advice you are more than welcome to contact us.