A subpoena is a formal request to produce documents, or a request to appear in legal proceedings. It is an ordered command that essentially requires you to appear at the commission, testify or present evidence that may help support the facts that are in dispute in a pending case.
What is the purpose of a subpoena?
Subpoenas are used to gather evidence or witness statements and enables a party to obtain information to help prove or disprove their case. Subpoenas compel individuals to provide evidence or testimony, which makes them extremely valuable tools for the justice system.
How must a subpoena be served?
A subpoena issued by the CCMA must specifically require the person named to appear before the commission on the set date. The name of the Commissioner must be included in the subpoena form LRA 7.16 and if the evidence required is a book or document. Furthermore, the subpoena must sufficiently identify the book, document or object to be produced as well as reasons why the person named in the subpoena must come and testify. A subpoena issued by the CCMA must be signed by the Director of the CCMA before being served on the individual. Currently, the senior convening Commissioner of each regional CCMA office has been authorised and mandated to sign subpoenas.
Rule 37 of the CCMA Rules:
(5) A subpoena must be served on the witness subpoenaed:
(a) by the person who has requested the issue of the subpoena or by the Sheriff at least seven days before the scheduled date of the arbitration: and
(b) if so directed by the Commission, accompanied by payment of the prescribed witness fees for one day in accordance with the tariff of allowances published by notice in the Government Gazette in terms of section 142(7) of the Act and the witnesses’ reasonable travel costs.
Consequences of failing to comply with a subpoena
Any person who refuses to appear or testify or leaves the CCMA without being released is in contempt of the CCMA. The commission does not have the power to enforce the subpoena but may hold the person in contempt. The CCMA can then refer the case to the Labour Court whom can confirm the order of contempt and can accordingly make an award against the individual which can be in the form of an interdict, order to comply, an order to imprison a witness, or to pay compensation or damages based on the order of contempt.
Subpoenas are formal legal documents that should be taken seriously. A person who receives a request to produce documents or a request to appear as a witness at CCMA or Council proceedings should take the necessary steps to comply with the demand sought.
Article by: Lesego Mabilo
Legal Assistant – Pretoria