'High Court flooded with petty cases'

BULAWAYO - Judge President Justice George Chiweshe says the High Court is inundated with petty civil matters that could be dealt with by the lower courts.

Justice Chiweshe said lawyers and people choose to file petty cases that can be attended to by the Magistrate Court.

“Presently the High Court is inundated with civil matters which fall within the jurisdiction of the Magistrate Court,” Chiweshe said during the official opening of 2014 legal year in Bulawayo yesterday.

“Legal practitioners and litigants tend to shun the Magistrates Court preferring to file all manner of cases with the High Court thereby flooding the court with petty cases.”

Chiweshe said lawyers had cited corruption as the major cause of legal practitioners shunning the Magistrate Court, while poor infrastructure, poor registry facilities, and inadequate support services are some of the causes.

A cumbersome requirement in the legal process was that Labour Court judgments and arbitral awards needed for purposes of execution be registered with the High Court.

“This could easily be streamlined if judgments made by the Labour Courts do not necessarily need to register with the Magistrate or High Court,” Justice Chiweshe said.

“Without adequate funding, continuous training of all staff and attractive conditions of service, these problems will not go away,” he added.

Justice Chiweshe said the judiciary had recommended that powers of scrutiny in the regional Magistrate Court should be increased to reduce the number of minor cases that are referred to the High Court for automatic review and thereby reduce the burden on the High Court.

He said the judiciary had made such recommendations but to no avail.

“We believe that these and other measures will go a long way in resolving some of the problems currently bedevilling the court,” said Chiweshe.

He said circuit courts in Gweru, Hwange, Masvingo, Mutare and Gwanda should be upgraded to the level of permanent High Court stations so as to decentralise the legal system according to cities.

“Decentralisation of the High Court in this manner will have a positive impact on the administration of justice as a whole, and, more importantly would bring the High Court closer to the generality of our people,” Chiweshe said.

He bemoaned the departure of Retired Judge Cheda (snr) in 2013 and Justice Maphios Cheda who resigned at the end of the first and second term respectively.

He said their departure had a negative impact on the clearance of cases, straining the remaining judges who had to attend to the normal court roll and preside over circuit courts.

Commenting on the state of the 2013 legal year, Chiweshe said during the year, 73 criminal cases were set down, of which 31 were finalised, 25 cases were removed from the roll due to non- availability of witnesses, 11 were postponed, three are still pending while three judgments were reserved.

Last year, divorce cases continued to soar, increasing by 48 from 425 in 2012.

In the year under review, 151 election petitions were filed with the electoral court of which 91 were withdrawn, 55 dismissed and one outstanding in Harare.

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