Judges recommend changes in justice delivery system

HARARE - Zimbabwean judges have recommended a number of structural and organic changes in the justice delivery system in a bid to reduce “ever increasing” workload and streamline operations.

Judges have recommended that the Labour Court be empowered to execute its own judgments and arbitral powers, that regional magistrates’ powers of scrutiny are substantially revised upwards and the civil jurisdiction of magistrates in general be increased.

Addressing delegates during the official opening of the 2013 judicial year    at the Bulawayo High Court this week, Judge President George Chiweshe said the recommendations had been submitted to government last year.

“Presently labour awards must, for purposes of execution, be registered with the High Court or the Magistrates’ Court. That sounds straight forward. However, invariably every application for registration will be opposed on one ground or another,” Chiweshe said.

He said as a result, the opposed matters motion roll had ballooned to unprecedented levels.

Chiweshe said the magistrates’ powers of scrutiny be substantially revised upwards because such a development would reduce the number of criminal reviews in the High Court.

“We receive on a daily basis piles of review files from all magisterial stations in the country. The judges are overwhelmed. We urge the legislature to act decisively. If not, the system is bound to collapse,” he said.

Chiweshe said the need for an increase in civil jurisdiction of magistrates in general would be welcome as the backlog of cases in the High Court primarily has to do with civil matters.

“I believe that the main reason why the High Court is so inundated is because we have not created a structure that acts as an intermediate court between the High Court and the magistracy,” Chiweshe said.

He said appropriate legislation was required to address the anomaly.

He said the minister of Justice and Legal Affairs Patrick Chinamasa had since issued a statutory instrument raising the maximum monetary jurisdiction of magistrates from $2 000 to $10 000, although they had suggested $20 000.

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