A guide to the Protection from Harassment Act

The Protection from Harassment Act helps the victims of harassment to obtain an effective remedy against harassment from anyone, including debt collectors who pester you for alleged debt you do not owe.

If you are a victim of this kind or any other form of harassment, you may approach the magistrates’ courts in terms of this Act to obtain a protection order against any person who is harassing you. Once you obtained the protection order, you need to use it effectively as a person who breaches a protection order may be criminally charged and, if found guilty, held liable to a fine or imprisonment. This will be your non lethal weapon and it works very effectively.

So lets first see what is harassment?

Harassment is any conduct directly or indirectly,  that the perpetrator knows or ought to know will cause mental, psychological, physical or economic harm or inspires the reasonable belief on the part of the victim or complainant and that harm will be caused to  or any member of the family or household of the complainant or any other person in a close relationship with the complainant. The Act refers to any member of the family, household of the complainant or any person in a close relationship with the complainant as a “related person”.

Harassment also includes acts such as unreasonably following, watching, pursuing or accosting a person (or related person) or loitering outside of or near a building or place where a person (or related person) resides, works, carries on business, studies or happens to be, and very important it also includes unreasonable verbal, electronic or other communication and the unreasonable sending or delivery of letters, telegrams, packages, faxes, email to a person (or related person) or telephone calls as well as sexual harassment. Even the bullying kid at school or cyber bullying is a form of harassment and is covered by the Act. So next time your kids gets bullied in any form, use this remedy to protect them by obtaining a protection order.

The protection order is a court order granted by the magistrates’ court prohibiting the perpetrator from engaging in or attempting to engage in harassment or important, enlisting the help of another person or persons to do so. A protection order may contain a list of specific acts which the perpetrator may not commit.

Although the Act does not specify the seriousness the conduct must be in order to apply for a protection order, as a general rule South African courts will not concern themselves with minor or frivolous matters, so make sure you have a valid case with proof. The court will only issue a protection order if it is the perpetrator’s behavior is unreasonable. You may find yourself in hot water if you act frivolously, maliciously or unreasonably when applying for a protection order, the court may order that costs be awarded against you in this case, and you may be held accountable for making false statements, so work wisely with this remedy.

So to summarise, any person who is a victim of harassment can apply for such an order, including a minor child with or without assistance from his or her parents or guardian.

It sometimes happens that you get harass by someone you do not know at all, or have no information about and do not know the perpetrators identity. In this regard the court may issue a directive directing the South African police to investigate the matter and identify the perpetrator.

Do not wait untill you suffer harm before you apply for a protection order. As long as your fear that you may suffer harm in future is reasonable, the court may issue an order. You do not need an attorney, this process you can do all by yourself at your nearest magistrates court.