Chief Justice condemns civil court premises

HARARE - Chief Justice Luke Malaba has condemned the derelict Harare Civil Court premises saying they are not fit for purpose.

Malaba said this in his address during the official opening of the 2018 legal year in Harare on Monday.

The courtyard is composed mainly of prefabricated buildings which are wasting away, having for years been battered by the elements without corresponding repairs being done.

Despite the rundown buildings, Malaba said the staffing levels at the Harare Civil Court were unacceptably low.

“I wish to comment on the state of disrepair of Harare Civil Court. I have deliberately chosen to comment on this court because this is the busiest court in Zimbabwe. This station receives the highest number of cases than any of the provinces in the country. This is the court to which most of the vulnerable of our litigants go.

“The state of disrepair has become a source of embarrassment to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). The situation is made worse by the fact that there is a shortage of magistrates to man the court and a few who are there are inexperienced,” said Malaba, painting a grim picture of the court’s sorry state.

Malaba said he has since directed that the court be renovated as a matter of priority.

“The courthouse is accommodated in a composite government building that has been condemned. I have since approved that it undergoes a major facelift to at least make it habitable and conducive for the court to dispense justice. I am pleased to advise that all the necessary steps are being taken to improve the image of that court in all respects.

“Some of the measures that have been taken include reducing the workload of magistrates at the station which is the highest in the country and deploying experienced magistrates who are able to deal with the high case volumes.

“The statistics I receive indicated that the magistrates are stretched to the limit. In order to further ameliorate the situation, I have approved of the decision to hive off administration of all deceased estates from the Magistrates’ Court to the office of the Master of the High Court.

“I believe this will enable magistrates to concentrate on their core function of adjudication. I have received positive comments about the developments at the court from legal practitioners. The JSC will continue to do all it can to bring the situation at the court to acceptable standards,” he said.

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