Southern Division court cases reduction backlog impresses judge

High Court judge Justice Elizabeth Gwaunza has applauded the Southern Division for reducing the court cases backlog and described this as a step towards timely and efficient justice delivery.

BY SILAS NKALA

Speaking during the official opening of the year 2018 judicial and legal year at the Bulawayo High Court yesterday, Justice Gwaunza said the late Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku in January last year bemoaned the backlog in the disposal of cases by judicial officers across the plane.

She said even the new Chief Justice Luke Malaba has continued to implore all judicial officers, namely judges and magistrates, to effectively and efficiently perform their duties, so as to reduce the backlog in the judicial system.
“I am happy to observe that sterling efforts have been made by judges of the High Court to reduce the heavy backlog of cases that had accumulated in the court. The year 2017 saw an impressive reduction of the backlog in the High Court at Bulawayo,” Justice Gwaunza said.

“Bulawayo High Court received a total of 3 157 criminal cases and 3 164 civil cases, including both applications and appeals. The judges managed to complete a total of 2 543 and 29 925 criminal and civil cases respectively. Compared to 1 160 criminal cases that remained pending as at December 31, 2016, the Bulawayo High Court closed 2017 with 621 pending criminal cases. In the civil division, the High Court closed 2017 with 232 pending cases, as opposed to the 1 295 cases that remained incomplete as at December 31, 2016.”

Justice Gwaunza said during the periodic circuit court sittings, the High Court completed a total of 23 cases on its visit to Hwange, having received 32 cases in 2017.

During its visit to Gweru, the High Court disposed of 33 cases out of 36 cases.

“It is clear, therefore, that the judges of the High Court are seriously taking it upon themselves to improve and promote litigants’ access to justice by disposing disputes that they [preside over expeditiously,” Justice Gwaunza said.

“Statistics in Labour Court also attest to the joint effort being made by members of the judiciary to deliver justice. Between December 2016 and November 2017, the Bulawayo High Court received 1 019 cases and of these, the judges managed to complete 934. This is remarkable improvement, if we compare it with the 348 cases completed in 2016.”

Justice Gwaunza said Matabeleland North Province’s magistrates courts received 8 658 criminal cases and completed 8 331 cases.
Meanwhile, Justice Gwaunza said the Judiciary is establishing anti-corruption specialised courts, in line with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s calls for zero tolerance on corruption.

“In the same spirit the JSC has since embarked on a journey to eliminate corruption by establishing specialised anti-corruption courts in each of the 10 provinces of Zimbabwe,” she said.

“The courts being specialised are meant to deal with corruption related cases and dispose of them efficiently and effectively. The project is being done in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, the National Prosecuting Authority, the office of the Attorney-General, the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services. We expect at least two courts to be operational in Harare and Bulawayo during the first quarter of the year.”

The judge said in 2017, no magistrate or judge was charged with corruption-related crimes.

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