'Decentralisation to ease High Court pressure'

HARARE - The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has said it will soon be decentralising the High Court to other parts of the country in a bid to provide efficient service delivery to members of the public.

Speaking to journalists yesterday after the appointment of eight High Court judges, judge president George Chiweshe said they will soon set up other High Court offices in other parts of the country, to help clear case backlogs and improve service delivery.

“We now have a total of 38 judges in the High Court. We have been 30 up to today, with these eight, we are now 38. It’s a very welcome development for a number of reasons, firstly the workload in the High Court is very high, it’s getting higher every day. It’s the kind of places where you clear 10 cases, you receive 50, if you clear 50, you receive 100, so these new judges will assist us in containing that workload and ensure that we don’t carry a huge backlog.

“We have had two retirements of the High Court judges so these judges will also come in to replace those two. I expect that some of the senior judges will be moving to the Supreme Court, so these new judges will replace them.

“As you are aware, we are on a programme to decentralise our services to the provinces. We have opened in Masvingo, one or two of those judges will be posted to Masvingo. We will be opening Mutare sometime during the course of next year, two or so judges will be posted there.

“So, in the end they are not that many, considering what needs to be done to fulfil our mandate,” Chiweshe said.

The eight judges who were sworn in by Chief Justice Luke Malaba yesterday at the Constitutional Court are Labour Court judge Justice Philda Muzofa, University of Zimbabwe lecturer Sylvia Chirawu, Pisirayi Kwenda, Neville Wamambo, Thompson Mabhikwa, Benjamin Chikowero, Jacob Manzunzu and Isaac Muzenda.

The eight were appointed after taking part in public interviews that were held in Harare recently.

Chiweshe said there was need to restructure the whole court system from the Magistrates’ Court to the High Court and the other superior courts in order for the system to be able to respond to the present challenges.

“Our people have become very litigious, everybody knows their rights and they all want to come to the High Court, so the workload is obviously on the increase every time.

“We want to obviously restructure because what we don’t want to have is a situation where the top is heavier than the bottom, we prefer a pyramid-kind of situation. But as it stands you find that there are more judges of the High Court than there are regional magistrates,” Chiweshe said.

Some of the appointed judges expressed confidence they will uphold the Constitution in the exercise of their duties.

Kwenda told journalists that he has been faithful to the justice delivery system for several years and rose through the ranks to the position of chief law officer.

“He later left for private practice in his bid to further his understanding of the law and has practice experience in almost all areas.

“I believe the jurisprudence of this country will gain a lot from my experience that I have amassed over the years.

“Having practiced for such a long time, I genuinely believe it was time to give back to the system that brought me up,” he said.

Chirawu also said he was happy to have been appointed a judge of the High Court after 23 years of practice as a lawyer.