Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Court Reporter
Judges of the High Court, criticised a year ago over poor productivity, have greatly scaled up their output and delivered a record 1 237 judgments last year, up from 917 in 2014.
Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku could not hide his joy over the improved performance of the judicial officers while opening the 2016 legal year on Monday.
The head of the Judiciary last year threatened all under-performers with disciplinary action before warning them to be more productive.
Last year, the Chief Justice named only five High Court judges as top performers for the 2014 legal year, while some among their 25 colleagues were so unproductive that they wrote only two judgments in a year in which others delivered as many as 72.
Chief Justice Chidyausiku could not hide his disappointment while disclosing that another judge only wrote three judgments, while two others wrote six and 11 judgments the whole of last year.
He singled out Justice Nicholas Mathonsi as the best performer after he wrote 72 judgments of high quality and hailed him for his excellent work.
Chief Justice Chidyausiku said there was a great improvement in the performance of the High Court judges in the 2015 legal year.
“Your appointment (new High Court judges) seems to have coincided with renewed vigour in that court, for during the year 2015, a record 1 237 judgments were handed down by that court alone,” he said.
“This is a significant improvement on the previous year.”
Chief Justice Chidyausiku said the judges had exceeded his expectations.
“You will recall that at the official opening of the 2015 legal year, I referred to what I termed unacceptably low performance by some judges of that court,” he said.
“I am happy to report that the performance of the High Court this year has exceeded my expectations and I wish to heartily congratulate judges of that court for the pleasing performance as evidenced by the number of judgments that they have returned during the course of the year.”
Chief Justice Chidyausiku said the performance by the High Court judges in 2015 was the ideal standard expected of such a serious court although a few others still needed to pull up their socks.
“The number of judgments handed down has in turn drastically reduced the number of complaints that I used to receive over delayed judgments,” he said.
“Let us all accept that this is the normative standard of an effective justice delivery system. I regret to say that as is to be found in any functional system, there are a few judges who may still need to introspect in light of the high performance by their colleagues generally.”
The High Court has also managed to reduce the backlog of action matters by 50 percent in 2015.
“Whereas at the beginning of 2015, the High Court had a backlog of 1 002 action matters, it closed the year with a reduced backlog of 504 cases,” he said.
“This translates to a 50 percent reduction in the backlog, a remarkable feat by all standards.”
The High Court’s criminal division was also hailed for clearing the backlog from 2 991 to 2 836 in 2015.
Magistrates, under the leadership of Chief Magistrate Mr Mishrod Guvamombe, were showered with accolades after finishing the 2015 legal year without any backlog on civil cases.
The Regional Court in the Eastern Division, which includes Harare, was hailed for reducing the backlog from 134 to 96.