CJ Reveals Civil Jurisdiction Plans for Regional Courts

By Fidelis Munyoro

Regional magistrates’ courts will soon be sanctioned to hear civil disputes, Chief Justice Luke Malaba has said, a development expected to bring substantive justice to the public and ease the workload of High Court judges.

He said measures have been put in place to practically implement the new development.

During the public interviews of judges of the Supreme Court recently, one of the interviewees suggested that regional magistrates’ courts should be vested with civil jurisdiction as a solution to reduce the workload of High Court judges.

Currently the regional courts can try rape, culpable homicide, armed robbery, fraud cases among other less serious offences.

Chief Justice Malaba said the Judicial Service Commission has since embraced the noble idea and measures were being taken to ensure the regional magistrates are sanctioned to handle civil disputes. He said the suggestion was noble in that it could help in ensuring speed disposition of cases.

“It is a means by which we are convinced that it will ensure effectiveness and efficiency,” said the Chief Justice in an interview with The Herald on the sidelines of the swearing-in of two Supreme Court judges –Justices Charles Hungwe and Nicholas Mathonsi — on Tuesday.

“Not just effectiveness and efficiency for the sake of it. We have already taken it on board and we have measures which we are already enforcing that regional magistrates should now exercise civil jurisdiction. This is something that we are implementing.”

He went on: “It is already a measure that we have put on the ground. It is not a measure that we are theorising about. It is not a constitutional theory. It is something that is being practically implemented.”

The Chief Justice said the endorsement was shaping out and urged the public to take advantage to utilise the coming judicial system once it is in place.

“We are chasing these things to ensuring that the public are receiving substantive justice, not that justice in abstract, substantive justice. It is a matter that we are seized with and we have already started putting measures on the ground to ensure that regional magistrates start hearing cases.”

Law Society of Zimbabwe president Mr Thandazani Masiye Moyo welcomed the decision by Chief Justice Malaba to empower regional magistrates’ courts with civil jurisdiction.

He said: “To me it is a sensible thing to do. There is absolutely nothing to stop regional magistrates from hearing civil cases.”

Mr Masiye Moyo said other than for the reason of reducing backlog in the High Court, the new system would assist in developing magistrates who potentially may become judges.

“It is also about developing the individuals in the various areas of the law so that in the event that they get elevated to the higher courts they appreciate and they are not lost,” he said.

“So, it is a good transitional area that regional magistrates should be given jurisdiction to hear civil cases. It needs to be supported.”

Prominent lawyer Mr Addington Chinake also supported the idea, describing it as noble in the contemporary sphere of judiciary.

“Traditionally the regional magistrates are as well experienced as any other lawyer or judge and they are quite qualified,” he said.

He said most judges once sat at the regional court bench hence regional magistrates were very senior and experienced judicial officers who have the capacity to handle complicated matters.

Source : The Herald

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