GOVERNMENT has embarked on a process to amend the High Court Act with a view to split the country into four High Court zones, a development that will curb forum shopping and compel litigants to access justice from their nearest court stations.
Lawyers and litigants are now shopping for a High Court station, sometimes preferring to go halfway across Zimbabwe for a favourable judgment.
Every judge of the High Court has “full original criminal and civil jurisdiction over all persons and matters throughout the country”, according to the High Court Act.
In theory, a High Court judge in Mutare can hear a case involving a land row in Mangwe on the Botswana border.
The recent opening of permanent High Court stations in Masvingo and Mutare was meant to make it easier for people to access this court, and so cut down costs and bring justice to the people, rather than bring people to justice.
However, in recent times there have been those who now shop for a court where they think they might get a more favourable judgment, or even to get a second chance without going through the delays of an appeal.
In an interview, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi yesterday said his ministry was now drafting proposals to amend the High Court Act in line with the recent decentralisation of the courts.
Minister Ziyambi said his ministry had noted the abuse of Sections 13 and 23 of the High Court Act by litigants and lawyers, hence the need to change the law to suit the new development.
“We have noted concern in the way litigants are abusing their freedom to approach any High Court station for recourse.
“We are going to amend the legislation so that people don’t just criss-cross the country with court applications and appeals,” he said.
Minister Ziyambi said he had since asked the Permanent Secretary for Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mrs Virginia Mabiza to draft the relevant papers and institute processes to change the law.
“I have asked my Permanent Secretary to start looking into the issue so that we amend the legislation accordingly.
“Already we have three court divisions, headed by regional magistrates across the court and that is, the Eastern, Western and Southern divisions.
“We intend to create a fourth division by splitting the Eastern division.
“We will then separate High Court so that people just don’t criss-cross the country. If you are in one division, you cannot go to the other. You will have to show cause why you want to go into another division,” said Minister Ziyambi.