Construction of Epworth Magistrate Court is now at an advanced stage as it is set to be completed before year-end, as Government moves to set up resident courts in suburban areas in its bid to take justice delivery system to the people in line with National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1).
There will be circuit courts sitting in other high-density suburbs as the Government mobilise resources to construct infrastructure in identified suburban areas.
Magistrates courts will be set up in high-density suburbs where the bulk of people reside as part of improving access to justice.
According to last Friday’s Government Gazette, there will be additional magistrates’ courts in some high-density suburbs in Harare and Bulawayo metropolitan provinces. In Harare Metropolitan province, magistrates’ courts will be set up in Epworth, Glen Norah, and Budiriro, while in Bulawayo they will be established in Nkulumane and Entumbane. The regulations were made in terms of the Magistrates Court Act.
Commenting on the latest development, Judicial Service Commission Secretary, Mr. Walter Chikwanha said construction works for Epworth were already at an advanced stage as the Government seeks to move with speed to fulfill its desire to decentralise access to justice.
“The idea is to decentralise the courts by bringing justice close to the people,” he said. “If you take, for example in Harare, people were visiting Harare Magistrates Court and Mbare courts.
“As Harare continues to expand these courts have been overwhelmed. Instead of expanding existing infrastructure, we simply said let’s have additional courts where people reside. They will not need to travel anymore.”
Mr. Chikwanha said in Epworth, they have already started constructing a court building which will be completed in the next four to six months.
“After we have completed the building, we go to the next district,” he said. “For now, we are targeting Harare and Bulawayo. But we will also be going to Sakubva in Mutare, Mkoba, and Senga in Gweru among other areas.”
Mr. Chikwanha said there will be circuit courts in those identified areas once the JSC finds a site to conduct court proceedings. Many people who spoke to welcomed the Government’s decision to establish magistrate courts where they reside.
“It brings convenience and cases of default for both accused persons and witnesses will be minimized as people no longer use transport costs as an impediment to attending court proceedings,” said Mrs. Janet Matenga from Glen Norah.
Mr. Gerald Pasipanodya said: “This will enhance the justice delivery system by bringing courts to the people. That is commendable.”
The government has also in the past established magistrate courts in areas such as Guruve, Murehwa, Mutawawa, and Murambinda, among others, as part of a grand plan to ensure citizens access justice without hassles.
High Courts have also been set in Mutare and Masvingo as part of a deliberate effort to decentralise the justice delivery system.
The High Court has also been sitting on the circuit where it has not been able to establish permanent structures as part of efforts to ensure citizens access justice close to them.
The establishment of courts close to people is consistent with NDS1, a five-year economic plan meant to ensure that the country attains an upper-middle economy by 2030. President Mnangagwa launched the medium-term strategic plan that will run from 2021-2025.