Government has set in motion an ambitious plan to open new Magistrates’ Courts and decentralise them from district level, including designating courts that will deal with commercial disputes at every Magistrates’ Court, a Cabinet Minister has said.

In addition to simplifying court procedures, a legal aid department will be set up in the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to cater for those who cannot afford legal services.

Each province will also have a High Court. Already, two new High Courts have been opened in Mutare and Masvingo.

In an interview with The Sunday Mail last week, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said the projects will be carried out within the next 18 months.

It is envisaged that improving access to justice and expeditiously dealing with court cases will entrench the rule of law, escalate the fight against corruption and safeguard property rights, which are key ingredients to promoting the appeal of Zimbabwe as a safe investment destination. “Improving access to justice is our first step. We are opening more Magistrates’ Courts, decentralising them from districts and establishing a High Court in each province.

“We have complex, lengthy civil and criminal court procedures, which are cumbersome and frustrating. Conclusions of justice processes are delayed. We will review this,” said Minister Ziyambi.

A stable governance structure, which is underpinned by a robust Judiciary, provides an added assurance for prospective investors, he said.

“A country where there is respect for rule of law and the governance structure is stable allows for investors to get into that country because you know your money is secure. Respecting human rights and property rights is key because anyone who wants to get into a country looks into those issues,” he said.

To date, considerable progress has been made in implementing the ongoing sweeping reforms.

On September 25, 57 new magistrates — comprising of 37 females and 20 males — were sworn-in at the Harare Magistrates’ Court.

It is believed that inadequate human capital has been a major cause for delays in timeously completing court cases.

The new magistrates will be deployed in different provinces.

Four regional courts in Plumtree, Beitbridge, Karoi and Chipinge have been established in the last three months.

Further, a building earmarked for Harare’s High Court’s commercial division has already been purchased.

Last week, Judicial Service Commission (JSC) secretary Mr Walter Chikwana said there will be designated courts to deal with commercial disputes at every Magistrates’ Court.

“There will be designated courts that will deal with commercial disputes at every Magistrates’ Court.

“We have put in place the mechanisms, and recently gazetted the opening of new courts at Centenary and Concession. We have already deployed the magistrate who is going to work at Concession.”

Mr Chikwana said two permanent courts were also recently opened in Mutasa.

Currently, logistics are being put in place to establish Magistrates’ and Regional Court in Mahuwe and Guruve, respectively.

The Bulawayo High Court was also recently expanded, and the new court rooms are set to be officially commissioned on Friday.

Mr Chikwana said, “We had challenges at Bulawayo High Court where we had three court rooms for use by five judges, but we have been working on expanding it. So we have just completed creating three more court rooms, which will be commissioned by the Chief Justice on the 5th of October.”

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