By Blessings Mashaya
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has concurred with sentiment from the public that the legal costs in Zimbabwe are too high.
Debating a report of the portfolio committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on Judicial Laws Amendment (Ease of Settling Commercial and Other Disputes) Bill, Mnangagwa said he shared the concerns of the public about the high level of legal costs
“However, please take note that I, as minister can fix a lower level of costs for cases that are heard in the small claims courts,” Mnangagwa, who is also Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs minister, said.
The Bill has just been the subject of public hearings conducted last month. The second reading debates will not be concluded until the portfolio committee has finalised presenting its report on the Bill and the outcome of the public hearings.
The committee chairperson Ziyambi Ziyambi said people welcomed the Bill.
“As regards the issue of affordability of legal services at the small claims court, the committee found that there is need for the Act to provide for stringent regulations for charges against litigants at the small claims courts.
“Participants were generally pleased by the proposed amendment because if passed, it will expedite the resolution of disputes and thus address the issue of backlogs bedevilling the justice delivery system.
“Also in terms of access to justice and the right to legal representation, participants welcomed this amendment in that it affords litigants the right of representation even at small claims courts, which effectively realigned the Small Claims Court Act to the Constitution. However, due regard should be made to ensure affordability of services rendered by legal practitioners.”
Speaking during the same debate, Kuwadzana East MDC MP Nelson Chamisa said government was taking the right steps in the right direction.
“Very unusual, but we must appreciate it all the same. This is a progressive amendment again of our laws, particularly to deal with the advent of commercial disputes.
“The spirit is very good, the direction is very good and the motivation and reasons are very good and must be supported because we are now moving onto an electronic platform even in the justice system.
“Access to justice is not access to justice if we do not have mechanisms of that access and access is only engendered when we are able exploit modern-day technologies to enable representation, access to justice and judge ments to be made, and decisions to be arrived at without people necessarily having to transport themselves to the courts