The SCA upheld an appeal by the minister of justice and constitutional development against an award for damages of more than R9.4 million in favour of former magistrate Frederick Reinecke.
Reinecke, a Randburg relief magistrate, alleged that he resigned in 2002 due to victimisation and discrimination against him by the then chief magistrate at Randburg.
He said his working circumstances were intolerable and he had resigned.
Reinecke further submitted that his leaving his job amounted to constructive dismissal that amounted to repudiation of his employment contract.
The SCA held the case rested upon the existence of a contract of employment and whether Reinecke could contend the chief magistrate’s conduct amounted to a repudiation of such a contract.
In a unanimous decision, the court held it was not clear whether magistrates in South Africa were still employed by the state.
Even if they were, their discharge from service could only be effected through statutory mechanisms, laid down in the Magistrates Act 1993 and not the conduct of a chief magistrate.
The SCA found the remedies for any such mistreatment were not contractual but statutory and did not include a claim for damages on the basis forwarded by Reinecke.
The appeal was upheld and the award of damages set aside.