THE Masvingo High Court which was opened by the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) on May 30, 2016; does not have a judge and will only get one in January 2017, it has emerged.
As the High Court is decentralising, the JSC, chaired by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, is leading the decentralisation process with the Masvingo High Court being opened under the theme “Access to Justice”. However, it has since been established that the public was not informed that no judge had been seconded to the court. The court was opened but there was no legal notice through the Government gazette as required by law.
Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who oversees the Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Ministry, officially opened the court recently.
Contacted for comment, the permanent secretary in the Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Ministry, Mrs Virginia Mabhiza said, “It is a point of concern which needs clarity.”
She said her office also inquired from JSC about the absence of a judge in Masvingo. “We haven’t been officially informed about an appointment of any judge,” she said before referring questions to JSC secretary Justice Rita Makarau.
Justice Makarau said the JSC only provided the facilities for the court and the Chief Justice Chidyausiku and Judge President Justice Chiweshe will be responsible for seconding judges to the Masvingo High Court.
“The appointment of the judges is not an administrative issue, it’s a judiciary matter which the CJ (Chief Justice Chidyausiku) and the JP (Justice Chiweshe) will deal with,” she said.
The Sunday Mail understands that the Masvingo High Court is “just a building since no cases will be heard” this year save for cases which were dealt with by Justice Joseph Musakwa who completed the two-week circuit on Friday.
“After the circuit, nothing will be happening at that court. The explanation is simple, there is no judge for Masvingo as yet,” said an official who requested not to be named. For now, only clerks and registry staff will be manning the Masvingo High Court, formerly the Masvingo Civil Court, which was spruced up by the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing.
The costs of the renovations could not be immediately established.
The Sunday Mail also gathered that about three judges were required but they cannot be posted anytime this year because accommodation has not been secured yet.
Government sources told this publication that efforts were underway to buy or rent houses for the judges.
“The JSC did not explain to the public that there is not going to be any sitting because there is no judge in Masvingo. What we have is just a building. A judge will be posted after accommodation is secured. Judges are constitutional appointees and in terms of their conditions of service, they are equated to Ministers. So a judge will only move if there is a place which is commensurate to the post.
“Secondly, a judge cannot be transferred at short notice because he or she may need time to clear a number of cases which are already set down for hearing. Some have school children and wives who may need to finish the running school term before transferring,” said the official.
Three judges are set to be appointed to the Masvingo High Court. One will be dealing with criminal cases while the other will focus on civil trials and applications. The other judge will deal with chamber and bail applications. Two of them will deal with appeal cases. The Masvingo fiasco comes amid reports that plans are underway to secure a building for the Mutare High Court. sunday mail