Government works on curbing corruption in judiciary From left: Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, Deputy Chief Justice Elizabeth Gwaunza, Bulawayo Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Cde Judith Ncube, Acting Prosecutor General Nelson Mutsonziwa and President of the Law Society of Zimbabwe Mr Wellington Magaya toast to the 12th anniversary of the Judicial Service Commission during celebrations at a Bulawayo hotel on Friday. (Picture by Dennis Mudzamiri)

Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
GOVERNMENT is working towards addressing working conditions for judicial officers and reviewing their salaries as part of efforts to stem the high turnover of skilled staff and curb corruption in the country’s justice delivery system.

The move by Government follows concerns raised by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) over continued loss of manpower due to low salaries.

In January, Chief Justice Luke Malaba said last year the JSC lost 88 members of staff including 18 magistrates because of poor remuneration.

Addressing key stakeholders during a dinner hosted by JSC in Bulawayo to mark 12 years of its existence last Friday, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said in view of the prevailing economic environment in the country, Government is prioritising the welfare of workers in the public sector, including members of the judicial service.
He said his ministry has since engaged Treasury over the issue.

“The welfare of the judiciary is important to us as Government.

When we have all our systems working very well, we should also be able to pay our judicial officers a very good salary because we don’t want them to end up engaging in corrupt tendencies,” said Minister Ziyambi.

“At the moment we are in negotiations and also engaging the Minister of Finance and Economic Development and something is being done in that regard.

Government values the contribution that our judicial officers are making to the country’s justice system.”

Turning to the newly introduced Integrated Electronic Case Management System (IECMS) launched by JSC last month, Minister Ziyambi said it will help reduce corruption through the removal of human interface.

“I am very happy with the milestone achievement by JSC when it introduced the Integrated Electronic Case Management System as it helps us in our ease of doing business agenda.

When we opened the Commercial Division of the High Court and the IECMS, we were shown the system and how it works in terms of helping improve our economy,” he said.

The web-based case management system automates and tracks all aspects of a case life cycle, from initial filing through to the disposition and appeal stage.

The system is now operational at the Constructional, Supreme and Commercial Courts.

“I want to appeal to JSC to also computerise the Office of the Sheriff of the High Court and remove the human interface because there is a lot happening there that is not right.

If we continue with this trajectory of improving our systems, even at Sheriff’s office, we would have done a lot of good,” said Minister Ziyambi.

Last week, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) arrested the Sheriff of the High Court, McDuff Madega for suspected criminal abuse of office and the illegal sale of properties attached by the courts.

Madega, who allegedly auctioned a property twice without disclosing to parties involved sometime in 2012, appeared in court last Thursday on fraud charges.

He was remanded out of custody to July 28 on $20 000 bail.

Speaking during the same occasion, Deputy Chief Justice Elizabeth Gwaunza said the successful implementation of the IECMS is in line with the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1).

“The pinnacle of our transformative agenda is the digitisation of the courts through the IECMS. We were able to launch the first phase of the system on the eve of our 12th anniversary on May 1, 2022,” she said.

“As we celebrate this feat, we also celebrate IECMS as it is a step in the right direction towards NDS1 goal of an integrated e-government electronic system in pursuit of Vision 2030.”

DCJ Gwaunza said the ultimate goal of the IECMS, which is being implemented in two phases, is to integrate all superior courts including the magistrate’s courts and the Office of the Sheriff of the High Court.

“As the judiciary, we are aiming at reducing the case backlog and we hope to report a marked reduction of that backlog at the opening of the 2023 legal year,” she said.

The IECMS is a unifying platform that seeks to connect all institutions involved in the country’s justice delivery system. Its features include virtual hearings, e-filing of court processes and payment of court fees electronically.

The full implementation of the system is set to transform all courts into automated and paperless courts.

DCJ Gwaunza said the initiative will also go a long way in reducing carbon footprints.

“As JSC, we recognise our role in the international drive to stop global warming hence the system will help in reducing carbon footprints,” she said.

Some of JSC’s milestone achievements in the 12 years include the decentralisation of the High Court, construction of 30 new courts, equipping and refurbishing various court houses across the country into world-class facilities.

High Courts were established in Masvingo, Mutare and recently in Chinhoyi as part of decentralisation, while magistrate’s courts were built in Inyathi, Kezi, Chivi, Chimanimani, Mutasa and Concession among other places.

“We want every district in the country to have a magistrate’s court.

We have now opened the Office of the Sheriff of the High Court in every provincial capital.

Over the years, we have crafted five-year strategic plans starting in 2012 and these plans provided us with the direction and manner in which we would fulfil our constitutional obligations,” said DCJ Gwaunza.

– @mashnets.

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