CHIEF Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku has called on government to appoint separate judges for the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court (ConCourt) to reduce pressure and backlog of cases at the superior courts.
BY CHARLES LAITON
Officially opening the 2016 legal year’s first term in Harare yesterday, Chief Justice Chidyausiku said while ConCourt judges were working as hard as they could, the inflow of work into that court continued to outpace their efforts.
“Over the last three years, the court has accumulated a small, but growing backlog, which now stands at 146 applications. If one considers that at best, the Supreme Court can clear 80 cases per year, we need more than one and a half years to clear the backlog that has accumulated to date,” he said.
“On our part, we have flagged the need for physical separation of the Constitutional Court from the Supreme Court. With Constitutional Court judges dedicated to constitutional matters only, we believe that the backlog maybe arrested.”
Chief Justice Chidyausiku also said the separation of the two courts would enable Supreme Court judges to complete many cases and write more judgments as compared to the current situation.
Turning to the performance of High Court judges, Chidyausiku said there had been a marked improvement since last year when he named and shamed some non-performers.
“I regret to say Mr Attorney-General (Prince Machaya) that as is to be found in any functional system, there are a few judges who may still need to introspect in light of the high performance by their colleagues generally,” he said.
He said although the High Court, regional and magistrates’ courts had managed to reduce their backlogs, the Labour Court had failed to do so.
The Chief Justice also said the Judiciary Service Commission had plans to decentralise High Court operations by upgrading the circuit court centres into fully fledged courts, but financial constraints were scuttling the efforts to have the facilities put in place timeously.
He said the decentralisation programme had received overwhelming support from stakeholders, legal practitioners, Prosecutor-General’s Office, Law Society of Zimbabwe, government departments and members of the public.
He added that the judiciary was working on the modalities of establishing a stand-alone Commercial Law Court, as a division of the High Court, to specifically deal with commercial crimes.
“We believe that the setting-up of this court, with judges dedicated to commercial law matters, will not only ease the doing of business in Zimbabwe, but will mark the beginning of specialisation in our High Court as a means of improving on overall efficiency,” Chief Justice Chidyausiku said.