BULAWAYO High Court judge Justice Lawrence Kamocha yesterday decried the heavy workload endured by the five judges based in the second city.
BLESSED MHLANGA/ STEPHEN CHADENGA
Justice Kamocha said besides handling Bulawayo matters, the judges were also expected to cover criminal and civil matters in the Midlands and Matabeleland provinces.
The judge made the remarks when he officially opened the Gweru High Court circuit yesterday.His remarks came after Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku early this month commended Justice Nicholas Mathonsi as the most hardworking judge after delivering some 72 judgments while four of his colleagues only managed 33 judgments between themselves in 2014. Justice Kamocha said the heavy workload had resulted in some cases going for over eight years before they were completed.
“The five judges handle criminal and civil cases from the whole of Midlands, Bulawayo, Matabeleland South and North provinces. The judges deal with all criminal and civil appeals from all magistrates’ courts. What this means is there is a very heavy workload for the five judges,” he said.
He said currently Midlands alone had 221 dockets which were expected to be dealt with by the High Court circuit.
“The circuit only comes here three times a year and for only two weeks at a time and this time is hardly enough for us to dispense with the set-down matters. For instance, I have 19 matters set down for this circuit. Can you imagine how does one complete 19 cases in two weeks?” he queried.
“Due to the above, it takes long for cases to be set down for trial due to the unavailability of a permanent court and by the time cases are set down for trial six to eight years later, accused and witnesses would have moved to other areas. Some accused and witnesses would have passed away.”
During the 2014 legal year at the Gweru High Court circuit, a total of 47 cases were on the roll and of these 21 could not be heard due to time constrains while nine failed to kick off because accused persons could not be located.
Justice Kamocha said only 17 matters were completed during that time, far less than the rate at which crime was being committed.
“Cases failed to take off despite being set down for trial due to failure to locate accused persons and witnesses. The rate at which offences are committed does not match the rate at which cases are cleared,” he said.
Speaking at the official opening of the 2015 judicial year two weeks ago, Chief Justice Chidyausiku labelled some judges as lazy and contributing to the backlog of criminal matters.