MASVINGO — Traditional leaders have demanded that government treats them the same way as judges and magistrates, arguing that they handle a lot of cases in rural areas where the majority of the people live and that they bring justice to the grassroots.
Speaking on the sidelines of a capacity-building workshop for traditional leaders organised by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) at Great Zimbabwe Hotel yesterday, Chiefs’ Council president Chief Fortune Charumbira said they were handling more cases than magistrates and judges yet they were not being paid for that when the former had fixed monthly salaries despite presiding over fewer cases than them.
“Chiefs are not paid for trying cases yet magistrates and judges are being paid. In fact, they [magistrates and judges] have a fixed salary despite the few number of cases they may try per month.
“We cater for the majority of the people who live in rural areas who access justice through the local courts. Proportionally, we handle more cases than the JSC, yet they give much support to courts that serve 30% of the population. We bring justice to the grassroots,” Charumbira said.
He said for trying cases, chiefs ended up with at most $15 per month, something which would get some of the traditional leaders tempted to charge more to litigants.
“Litigants pay $5 for a case to be heard and the chief will be with other advisers and they end up with only $2 per case and per month can only get $12 to $15. Some chiefs may be tempted to overcharge litigants or fabricate cases so that they pocket more money as they take it as a source of pay,” Charumbira said.
He also said their courts were underfunded and chiefs had resorted to using their money to buy summon papers, stationery and other documents.
“Community courts [manned by chiefs] and primary courts [manned by headmen] have been neglected in terms of being resourced. We lack stationery.
“We are not catered for in the JSC budget. Chiefs now use their money to acquire summons and other court records. For the past five years, we have had no funding.
“Even after the new dispensation, the JSC has not yet taken the local courts on board. They still exclude us.”
Last month, traditional leaders confronted President Robert Mugabe during their annual conference in Gweru and demanded new vehicles and an upward review of their allowances currently pegged at $300 per month.