HARARE - Chief magistrate Mishrod Guvamombe has castigated the “unjustified” unnecessary postponement of cases, saying it leads to delays in justice delivery.
This comes as lawyers have often complained about endless and willy-nilly deferment of cases by the courts.
“Remanding and postponing matters must be justified in terms of the law,” Guvamombe said during the swearing-in ceremony of three trainee magistrates last week.
“Postponement of cases without justification builds unnecessary backlogs,” he said, adding “it is a requirement of proper administration of justice that cases are finalised expeditiously”.
“Out of court duties such as checking of books of accounts, various registers and exhibits is part of your work and you must diligently execute those tasks. I wish to remind you that a magistrate’s court is one of record and everything that happens must be reduced to writing,” he said.
Guvamambe further said magistrates must not always pass jail sentences, but consider non-custodial terms to encourage criminal offenders to rehabilitate.
He said the motive is to rehabilitate offenders, not punish.
“As a magistrate, you wield a lot of power. Do not rush to imprison people for trivial offences. Imprisonment should only be a sentence of last resort,” Guvamombe said.
“There are other sentencing options at your disposal which you must explore first,” he said.
“We are beginning to see the fruits of our formal and on-the-job training. We expect you to produce quality judgments and rulings and for that to happen, you must consult law reports,” Guvamombe said.
The recently sworn-in magistrates are Perseverance Nkala, Amanda Muridzo and Isabel Nyoni, who all completed training in the civil and criminal courts divisions.
Guvamombe also urged the magistrates to shun and resist corruption for a credible justice delivery system.
“Corruption is a cancer that has permeated all facets of society. If it is allowed to take root in the judiciary it can undermine justice delivery by denying justice to litigants. I urge you to resist it in whatever form it may be exposed to you,” Guvamombe added.
“I also wish to state that if you are caught engaging in corruption the consequences are clear and very predictable. In that same vein I urge members of the public and all stakeholders not to tempt our magistrates with bribes.”
Law Society of Zimbabwe president Misheck Hogwe echoed similar sentiments, saying corruption would make society lose trust in the justice system.
“Hard work has no substitute for success in this profession without diligence you expose yourself to unscrupulous litigants. Corruption sets in and the trust reposed in you by the public evaporates,” he said.
“…once the public’s confidence in the bench declines it will be difficult to restore. People will seek alternative means of resolving disputes and this leads to the breakdown of the rule of law,” Hogwe said.