Chief Justice opens legal year, calls for more funding

11 Jan, 2022 - 00:01 0 Views
Chief Justice opens legal year, calls for more funding Chief Justice Luke Malaba sitting with (from left) the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mrs Virginia Mabiza, the head of legal drafting in the Attorney-General’s Office Mr Nelson Dias, Prosecutor-General Mr Kumbirai Hodzi and Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission chairperson Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo pose for a picture with judges at the opening of the 2022 Legal Year in Harare yesterday

The Herald

Nyore Madzianike Senior Court Reporter 

THE Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has bemoaned lack of funding which saw the scaling down of its operations last year and wants Treasury to avail more money to boost operations.

In his State of the Judiciary Address during the official opening of the 2022 legal year yesterday, Chief Justice Luke Malaba said the Judiciary had to rely on support from its development partners in 2021.

“The JSC experienced the challenge of inadequate funding. Time and again, a range of activities that are carried out for the Judiciary, from the day-to-day administration of the courts to the construction and upgrading of infrastructure, were hindered by the challenge of inadequate funding.

“In certain instances, the JSC has had to cut down on its operations or rely on support from development partners. It is appreciated that the Ministry of Finance allocates funding to the different arms of the State in proportion to the revenue generated by the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

“Notwithstanding this, it is an undesirable situation when the Judiciary, which in terms of the Constitution must retain its independence from the other organs of State, has, through the JSC, to approach Treasury for funding of activities it would have decided to embark upon.

“Under the principle of separation of powers, the Judiciary ought not to be put in a situation in which it has to actively petition for funding from the Executive nor should it be demanding the release of funds allocated to it,” he said.

Chief justice Malaba said the Judiciary was unable to actively fundraise, as it undermined the public’s perception of its ability to adjudicate disputes impartially. 

“A Judiciary that knocks on several doors begging for funding or that engages in commercial activities for the generation of income undermines the public’s perception of its ability to adjudicate disputes impartially.

“It is hoped that Treasury will consider the implementation of the system of block release of adequate funds to the Judiciary from its appropriated budget funds to pre-empt the frequent visits to it by officers from the JSC pleading for money for its operational needs.”

Chief Justice Malaba also attributed the high staff turnover in the judicial service to low remuneration in the public sector. He said 88 people left JSC last year, with 18 of them being magistrates.

“In view of the economic environment that is prevailing in the country at the moment, workers in the public sector, including members of the judicial service, continue to experience financial hardships due to low remuneration levels.

“It is therefore important that the Government should constantly review the salaries of the workers so that they remain relevant to the prevailing economic situation.

“The JSC witnessed a high staff turnover in the year under review because of low salaries. During the year under review, the JSC lost a total of 88 members of staff through resignations, of whom 18 were magistrates.

“Human capital is the most important resource in the success of any organisation. To stem the high turnover of professionally competent and skilled employees, an employer, whether public or private, must ensure that it has in place attractive and competitive conditions of service.” 

He said the Covid-19 pandemic continued to be the major disrupter of court operations and smooth administration of justice over the last two years.

“Whilst the judicial officers applied themselves commendably, the courts could not perform at optimum levels because of the constant lockdowns announced by the Government to contain the spread of Covid-19. For more than six months of the year, the courts were offering very limited services to litigants.

“Even for those limited services, members of the public did not have access to the courts. The limitations in court operations resulted in fewer cases being finalised as compared to the last two years.” 

The Constitutional Court completed fewer cases last year compared to 2020.

Chief Justice Malaba said the Supreme Court completed 619 cases, while the High Court received 2 864 less cases compared to 2020.

He said the Harare regional magistrates court received 4 063 cases compared to 5 450 received in 2020 with a backlog of 442.

Provincial courts received 75 241 cases last year compared to 77 031 in 2020 with the Harare Civil Courts registering 53 165 in 2021.

Chief Justice Malaba said the designing of the integrated electronic case management system was complete with the launch of 

the data centre slated for May 1 this year.

The first phase of the system will be at the Constitutional Court, Supreme Court and the Commercial Court.

“The designing of the system for the three courts is now complete. The process of testing the system by the registrars working with the JSC’s ICT team and officials from Synergy International Systems has started.

“It has, however, not been possible to deploy the system in the respective courts by January 1, 2022, as promised because of some challenges encountered during the course of the year which disrupted the work plans.

“The delays in deploying and testing the system were occasioned by the various lockdowns and restrictions imposed to curb and curtail the spread of Covid-19 between January and July 2021.

Procurement of equipment for the data centre that would house the entire system had started.

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