Auxilia Katongomara, Chronicle Reporter
THE Judicial Service Commission has pledged to play its part in ensuring free, fair and credible elections in the country.
Officially opening the 2018 legal year at the Bulawayo High Court on Monday judge of the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court, Justice Elizabeth Gwaunza said the judiciary was expecting free and fair elections later this year.
“The people of Zimbabwe will this year partake in the harmonised general elections in terms of the Constitution. We as the judiciary expect the rule of law to prevail as the various political parties intensify their campaigns. The fulfilment of our expectation will guarantee free, fair and credible elections,” said Justice Gwaunza.
The judiciary, she said, will ensure greater access to justice for every Zimbabwean by expeditiously dealing with all cases.
She said under the new dispensation, the courts were mandated to ensure all cases are heard and concluded timeously.
Justice Gwaunza commended all the courts for their sterling performance in reducing backlogs and expeditiously completing cases last year and said that work ethic should be intensified this year.
She said the Bulawayo High Court last year received 3 157 criminal cases and 3 164 civil cases including both applications and appeals and the judges managed to complete 2 543 and 2 925 criminal and civil cases.
“Compared to 1 160 criminal that remained pending as at 31 December 2016, the Bulawayo High Court closed 2017 with 621 pending criminal cases 232 pending cases as opposed to 1 295 cases in December 2016,” said Justice Gwaunza.
She said during its circuit sittings, the High Court completed 23 cases on its visit to Hwange having received 32 cases and has only nine cases pending.
“During its visit to Gweru, the High Court disposed of 33 cases having received a total of 36 cases. Three cases are yet to be completed from the year 2017. It is clear therefore that the judges of the High Court are seriously taking it upon themselves to improve and promote litigants’ access to justice by disposing disputes that they preside over expeditiously.”
Justice Gwaunza said the Bulawayo Labour Court received 1 019 cases and the judges managed to complete 934 , an improvement from 348 completed in 2016 and it only had 85 pending cases at the end of 2017.
Magistrates’ courts in Matabeleland North province received 8 658 criminal cases and completed 8 331 cases and had 327 pending cases by end of November.
In Matabeleland South province, 3 665 criminal cases were received and the magistrates courts completed 3 522 cases by November 2017.
She said both provinces received 11 231 civil cases and completed 11 142 with only 89 pending cases as at November 2017.
“From December 2016 to November 2017, the Midlands province received a total of 6 984 and 7 954 criminal and civil cases respectively. The criminal divisions of the magistrates courts in that province received 6 723 cases leaving 261 pending criminal cases as at November 2017.
The civil divisions on the other hand managed to complete 7 934 cases in the same period which left the courts with only 20 pending civil cases at the end of the review period,’ said Justice Gwaunza.
She commended the magistrates for their hard work despite a shortage of magistrates in the country.
Justice Gwaunza acknowledged the death of Retired Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku who passed on in April last year and retirement of Justice Lawrence Kamocha who left the bench on November 15.