How long should a Defendant take to file their plea after filing an Appearance to defend in a civil case?

By Vimbai Tavaziva

As mentioned in our article entitled The Beginner’s Guide to Legalese, a defendant is an individual, a company, or an institution sued or accused in a court of law. The defendant is sued by the plaintiff.

A plaintiff can also be known as a claimant or complainant. This is the term used to refer to the person, company or institution that initiates a lawsuit before a court, accusing other people of wrong-doing.

A plea is the formal statement made by a defendant or by his or her lawyer indicating whether the defendant is admitting to being responsible or denying responsibility and claiming to be innocent in response to an allegation of fact or a point of law.

An appearance to defend is a simple notice by the defendant showing his or her intention to defend the case and dispute (oppose) the claim made against him or her.

The time period within which a defendant has to file his/her plea differs depending on whether the person is appearing in the Magistrates Court or High Court

Magistrates Court

In the Magistrates Court the defendant shall file a plea (a written statement) within seven (7) days after making the appearance to defend. This is in line with Order 10 Rule 3 and Order 15 Rule 1 (1) of the Rules of Procedure in the Magistrates Court.


High Court

In the High Court, a defendant must enter a plea within ten (10) days after the Plaintiff files his or her declaration. Usually, in the High Court, the Plaintiff files the summons together with the Declaration. In that case, ten more days will be to the ten days that the Defendant has in terms of the Rules. This means that where the Plaintiff files summons together with the declaration the Defendant has twenty (20) days within which to file a plea. The usual time allowed is ten days.

This is in line with Order 18 Rule 119, Order 17 Rule 113 and Order 3 Rule 17 of the High Court Rules, 1971.


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