George Maponga Masvingo Bureau
The Judicial Service Commission has started moves to decentralise the High Court to all the country’s provinces, with Masvingo set to have the first permanent seat of the superior court for a rural province. JSC chairman Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku last week said that the High Court was a priority in Masvingo considering the high number of cases that needed the court’s attention.
The city would become the third to have resident High Court judges apart from Harare and Bulawayo metropolitan provinces. Speaking during a tour of the Masvingo Civil Court to determine its suitability to function as a High Court, Justice Chidyausiku said the JSC wanted to bring justice to the people by devolving the operations of the court.
He said besides Masvingo, there were plans to open the High Court in either Midlands (Gweru) or Manicaland (Mutare) over the next two years.
“The whole idea is to bring justice closer to the people and Masvingo is set to become the first province to have a High Court soon because of the high number of cases that need to be heard before such a court, but the question of how soon that court will open depends on a number of factors,’’ said Justice Chidya- usiku.
“There are issues to do with how soon the place we want to set up the High Court will be ready and that depends with other parties like the Public Works Department which should make sure that the requisite upgrading is done to make sure the premises here (Masvingo Civil Court) can be turned into a High Court.”
Chief Justice Chidyausiku said his visit to Masvingo was motivated by the desire to make an inspection in loco on Masvingo Civil Court’s suitability to be turned into a High Court.
“We received recommendations from the Judge President (Justice George Chiweshe) about plans to upgrade Masvingo Civil Court into a High Court and we decided to come here so that the decision that we will make will be from an informed point of view,’’ he said.
Responding to questions from the media, Justice Chiweshe said there was need to decentralise the High Court as Zimbabwe was now a highly litigious society. He said the country’s justice delivery system would never have enough judicial officers owing to reasons ranging from retirement to natural attrition.
“We want to bring justice closer to our people, more so that now our society is highly litigious with most people wanting to approach the High Court as long as they can afford to pay the lawyers,” said Justice Chiweshe.
“We also want to cut costs for our people so that it is not expensive to access justice, imagine that at the moment we only have the High Court in Harare and Bulawayo and a person from as far as Chipinge would have to travel to Harare to access services of the High Court.’’
JSC secretary Justice Rita Makarau side while the Masvingo Civil Court would need upgrading to make it suitable for High Court sittings, the building would not undergo major external facelift as it was a preserved structure with historical importance.
She said other Government departments housed near the Masvingo Civil Court such as the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement together with the Department of War Veterans would need to be relocated to create space for the proposed High Court.
Other officers who accompanied Chief Justice Chidyausiku on the tour were Chief Magistrate Mr Mishrod Guvamombe, Masvingo provincial magistrate Mr Langton Ndokera and a team of engineers.