THE adoption of a five year-year strategic plan by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to ensure the country’s courts deliver world-class justice to all litigants is the best news Zimbabweans have heard in years.
Most Zimbabweans have been crying foul over what they see as failure by the country’s justice system to afford them a fair hearing in time on their matters thereby creating an uncertain future in their social lives and businesses.
Chief magistrate Mishrod Guvamombe last week said the organisation’s vision was to ensure that judicial officers were adequately equipped to effectively discharge their duties.
He further said no opportunists would be accepted on the bench and that all magistrates would go through rigorous training so that they do their work diligently.
The country’s courts have been battling to deal with a backlog of court cases over the years, but the chief magistrate said the problem was being addressed and more was to be done to ensure clearance of the backlog.
It is commendable that the backlog of cases that stood at about 50 000 nearly two years ago is now slightly above 10 000.
It is the move by the JSC, however, to adequately equip judicial officers and address their conditions of service, which would go a long way to ensure that some “corrupt elements” within the justice delivery system would not find ways to influence the decisions by magistrates in courts.
The chief magistrate also emphasised the need for judicial officers to guard against corrupt activities and further called upon the lawyers to desist from underhand dealings which were meant to influence the outcomes of their cases before the magistrates.
As statistics have shown that one of the country’s biggest challenges is no doubt corruption, any efforts to deal with these nefarious activities, especially from critical arms of government, is commendable.
A survey conducted by Transparency International Zimbabwe early this year showed that the police was the most corrupt institution in the country with a 53% bribe rate followed by registry at 42%.
The other components of the judiciary were at 31%, 4 percentage points behind land services, but ahead of utilities (27%), education (27%), taxes (26%) and medical and health services (22%).
It is refreshing to hear prouncements the JSC is stepping up efforts to fight corruption.
The chief magistrate further said the magistrates’ courts were the mirror of justice in the country by virtue of the volumes and complexity of cases they handle.
More often than not, some lawyers have been accused of acting unprofessionally by avoiding proper procedures and argue cases in courts on behalf of their clients, rather opting for shoddy deals to circumvent convictions of their clients thereby creating unruly elements in the justice delivery system.
The comments by the chief magistrate come against the backdrop of several judicial officers who have been convicted in cases of abuse of public office. The importance of justice can never be underestimated in the affairs of any democratic society.