CJ bemoans magistrates' shortage

HARARE - Chief Justice Luke Malaba has urged government to lift the recruitment freeze of magistrates.

This came as government opened five new anti-corruption courts in Harare and Bulawayo yesterday.

Speaking at the unveiling of the courts, Malaba said the shortage of magistrates across the country could hinder the work of the justice system.

The courts — three in Harare and two in Bulawayo — open at a time the Judicial Services Commission has said 19 courts across the country have shut down because of staff shortages.

Malaba said: “It is important at this moment for me to comment on the serious shortage of magistrates and other members of support staff in the Judicial Services Commission.

“Over the years we have lost a number of magistrates through various forms of attrition.

“The freeze imposed on recruitment of magistrates and other court staff is not at all consistent with the trajectory being taken by the leadership of the country to fight crime and ensure access to justice to the people.

“The magistrates are stretched to the limit and this will obviously affect the speed at which matters are disposed of.

“It affects the quality of justice delivered. I implore government through the Ministry of Justice to uplift the freeze so that justice is not compromised,” he said.

He said the police and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission must properly carry out investigations of cases.

Malaba added that for the criminal justice system to gain the public’s confidence, magistrates should not have any interference in their work.

“I expect our magistrates to preside over cases brought before them independently, impartially and efficiently. There should be no undue influence brought to bear on any of the stakeholders involved in the administration of justice from any quarter,” the chief justice said.

Prosecutor-General Ray Goba added that the special courts will play a crucial role in the prevention and interdiction of corrupt conduct and punishments for proven offenders.

He said that those found guilty of various forms of corruption should not only be given jail time but should also have the assets they acquired during the commissioning of the crime confiscated.

Goba said the money laundering law of the country now provides for non-conviction based forfeiture of assets, which will see the courts deal with different types of quasi-civil applications.

“Because the motivation for corruption is always profit, investigating agencies are now required to not only investigate and target the predicate criminal conduct but also the assets and the processes that are undertaken by criminals to conceal the illicit origins or tainted nature of those assets through money laundering.

“Therefore sentencing processes must include forfeiture of assets upon conviction,” Goba said.

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