By Albert Nxumalo
Zimbabwe’s judiciary system is likely to suffer a huge knock after all non-urgent cases have been postponed for at least two months due to an outbreak of the global Coronavirus pandemic.
With the postponement of cases, this is likely to add to the huge backlog which characterises the courts.
Every year, the judiciary struggles to clear cases resulting in huge backlogs and a situation that has put a strain on the prisons.
In an update, the Judicial Service Commission through the Chief Justice Luke Malaba announced a raft of preventive measures aimed at reducing the spread of the deadly COVID-19 in all courthouses in the country.
Almost on a daily basis, all court buildings are crowded with people which might cause a rapid spread of the virus.
“Trials and non-urgent hearings must be postponed for a period not less than two months except urgent matters, bail applications and initial remand,” reads part of the notice dated 23 March 2020.
Chambers hearings have also been suspended.
“In instances where hearings are held, these should be confined to parties involved in the case and their legal practitioners. Those not involved in the case are discouraged from attending or coming to court”.
Last week in Bulawayo, Malaba was told of massive congestion at Tredgold building which houses the Bulawayo Magistrates Courts, Labour Court, Department of Surveyor General, Department of Social Services, Registrar General’s office, Local Government Ministry, and Umguza District Administrator’s office.
Other offices in the building are Deeds and Intellectual properties, District Development Fund (DDF) Tillage, Justice Ministry, Finance Ministry, Public Service Commission (PSC) and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
With the overcrowding at Tredgold building, it would be difficult for health safety measures to be full adhered to.
Malaba said, ” all surfaces at reception areas, registries, courtrooms and areas of potential risk should be regularly sanitised and fumigated as may be necessary”.
The Chief Justice also cancelled all court weddings.
“All weddings are cancelled. Parties may approach the courts for rebooking after a period of two months,” he said.
On Monday evening, President Emmerson Mnangagwa imposed a sweeping ban on gatherings around recreational facilities such as nights clubs, bars, beerhalls, movie houses, swimming pools, gymnasiums and sporting activities until further notice.
Government has since declared Covid-19 a national disaster, postponing national events including the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair and Independence Day celebrations that were set for Bulawayo next month.
Schools, colleges and universities are also closing today to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Authorities say the country has only recorded two coronavirus cases.
One of the patients, a media practitioner Zororo Makamba, died in Harare on Monday.