Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Court Reporter
AT least 40 000 abandoned civil suits are clogging the High Court, as the court has no power to dispose of them in the absence of an enabling piece of legislation or a relevant court rule.
Officially opening the 2016 legal year on Monday, Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku said the High Court was in a dilemma over the situation, which was now giving a wrong impression that the backlog was too high when the litigants were not making any effort to proceed with their cases.
The parties did not even withdraw the matters formally as required at law.
Of the 40 000 cases, some were filed as far back as 2002 without any further action or follow up.
Some of the defendants in those cases were never served with summons and they do not even know that they are being sued.
Civil cases are litigant-driven and if the applicant or plaintiff does not make an effort to have the matter set down, it remains a pending case.
Chief Justice Chidyausiku said the situation was now impacting negatively on the operations of the court.
He said there was need to amend High Court rules to empower the courts to throw away all dormant cases.
“While the judges have been doing their best to clear cases that are filed with the High Court registry, my attention has been brought to the number of files that are dormant or semi-dormant in the High Court.
“In a report to me, the Registrar of the High Court (Mr Sithembinkosi Mpisa) has indicated that there are more than 40 000 records that have been dormant for three years or more.
“These are matters that were filed as way back as 2002 up to 2012 ,but are lying idle with no one prosecuting the claims or applying to have it dismissed,” he said.
Chief Justice Chidyausiku said of the cases, 20 000 were summons that were never served on the defendants.
“Some people may not know that they have been sued and are part of the High Court statistics even as I speak,” he said.
Chief Justice Chidyausiku said the judiciary was seeking to amend the rules of the High Court in a bid to deal with the problem of unprosecuted cases.
“As we seek to amend the rules of court to deal with this problem, I wish to invite members of the profession and the litigating public to take note of the undesirable state of affairs and to assist us to come up with rules of court that will lapse such processes automatically if they are not prosecuted within reasonable period after filing with the court.
“Currently, there is no such rule,” said the Chief Justice.