Courts to battle huge backlog

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Magistrates countrywide on Friday heeded the call to return to work, but business at the courts started at a slow pace with few courtrooms operating while others remained closed.

Those open were dealing with remands only amid concerns that the week-long industrial action had created a huge backlog of both civil and criminal cases.

Most police stations, with the exception of Harare Central, did not bring suspects to court because they were not sure magistrates had returned to work.

“The strike has created a huge backlog of partly-heard matters but we are not blaming anyone for the current situation.

“It is a pity that those in remand prison continued to suffer because only magistrates could entertain their applications,” a court official said.

Another court official who declined to be named said some court records had fallen out of the system and would be difficult to bring back.

At Magistrates’ Civil Courts in Harare, officials said the strike had also affected litigants whose matters would have to be reset for hearing.

The magistrates embarked on a nationwide strike last Monday to force Finance minister Tendai Biti to release funds to their employer, the Judicial Service Commission, for improvement of their salaries.

In Bulawayo all magistrates reported for duty but did not conduct any duties as they remained locked up in their offices.

But Provincial magistrate John Masimba attended to 15 new cases brought before him.

He remanded all the suspects, out of custody to — April 21. On Thursday, the magistrates were urged to return to work by the three parties involved in the salary negotiations.

The judicial officers returned to work on Friday following marathon meetings with the relevant authorities. It was not clear whether the magistrates had won their battle.