The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and the Legal Resources Centre have applauded this week’s Constitutional Court ruling regarding emoluments attachment orders (EAOs).
This was in relation to the matter of University of Stellenbosch Legal Aid Clinic versus the justice and correctional services minister to declare that judicial oversight in the granting of EAOs was a necessary prerequisite.
The court was dealing with the case of a group of low-income earners living in Stellenbosch, represented by the University of Stellenbosch Legal Aid Clinic.
They had fallen into arrears, and their salaries attached by microlenders through the EOA debt collection mechanism, often called garnishee orders.
In this matter, the Constitutional Court had to determine whether the Magistrates’ Court Act (MCA) governing the issuing of EAOs provided for judicial oversight when the collection mechanism was issued against a judgment debtor in favour of a judgment creditor.
In his majority judgment, Judge Raymond Zondo held that under the MCA, there were cases were EAOs had been issued without court intervention and were, therefore, constitutionally invalid.