Abel Zhakata Senior Court Reporter
HIGH Court Judge — Justice Hlekani Mwayera — who was once a Mutare regional magistrate a decade ago before her appointment to the bench in 2011, is back in the eastern border city as head of the newly- commissioned Mutare High Court.
She is now a senior judge.
Acting secretary of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), Mr Walter Chikwana, revealed on Wednesday that Justice Mwayera has since began work while another judge will be appointed soon to resume duties at the new court which has a capacity to accommodate four judges.
“Justice Mwayera is heading the new Mutare High Court as the senior judge. The other judge who is coming to Mutare has not been appointed but the process will be done soon,” he said.
The magnificent Mutare High Court, which has been described as the best in the region, was on Monday officially opened by Acting President Retired General Constantino Guvheya Chiwenga at a colourful ceremony befitting the superb courthouse. In her welcome address at the commissioning ceremony, the Minister of State for Manicaland, Cde Monica Mutsvangwa, said the province was elated to have “our own daughter” as the head of the new upper court.
She said the opening of the Mutare High Court will bring justice closer to the communities and thanked the JSC for a job well done.
Cde Mutsvangwa, however, raised concern over the critical shortage of magistrates in the province. She said there are only magistrates serving the Mutare Magistrate’s Courts while other courts in the districts were each being served by a single magistrate.
“May I take this opportunity to register the province’s concern over the shortage of magistrates in the lower judiciary,” she said.
“I am aware that there are only three magistrates at Mutare magistrates’ court. The three include the provincial magistrate who also handles the administrative duties. The majority of our people’s cases are handled by the magistrates courts. The three magistrates that we have at Nyanga, Mutasa and Murambinda had two court rooms each and there is only one magistrate. The rest of the courtrooms are idle and we do not wish the beautiful buildings to become white elephants in our midst,” she said.
Sen Mutsvangwa also appealed for the setting up of a magistrates’ court in Chimanimani saying people from the district were travelling long distances to access justice.
“Acting President and Chief Justice (Luke Malaba), I would like to lament the long distance that some of our people are travelling to access court services. The first point is that of Chimanimani district, which has no station. May urgent interventions be made for the establishment of a resident court at Chimanimani for the maintenance of the pride of our people,” she said.
Retired General Chiwenga quickly responded to her pleas saying he will engage the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and Judiciary Service Commission to find ways of addressing the shortages.
“From today, I want to say the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs in conjunction with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and the Judiciary Service Commission and where necessary the head of Civil Service will expeditiously address the matter,” he said.
In his keynote address, the acting President appealed to Zimbabweans to warmly welcome foreign observers coming for the country’s forthcoming harmonised elections.
He said such a gesture would demonstrate that the country’s democracy had matured.
“We have invited observers from across the globe to witness our election. I call upon all Zimbabweans to show them warm hospitality and demonstrate that our democracy has matured and come of age,” he said.
Rtd Gen Chiwenga, who was accompanied by his wife, Mrs Mary Chiwenga, also called upon authorities running the harmonised elections to engage dedicated officials when dealing with matters of political violence and intimidation.
“This High Court is being opened at a very opportune moment when Zimbabwe will hold harmonised general elections.
“I want to assure you that my administration is ready to deliver a free, fair and credible election. Be that as it may, in terms of the law, the Electoral Court is a specialised division of the High Court. Its operations are key to the credibility of elections. The Electoral Act also provides for our institutions such as the Judicial Service Commission, Zimbabwe Republic Police and the National Prosecuting Authority to designate officials who are dedicated to dealing with political violence and intimidation. In this regard, I appeal to every Zimbabwean to shun violence and preach the gospel of peace, unity, tolerance, love and understanding throughout the country,” he said.
He said Government would remain committed to the rule of law.
“If the rule of law prevails, then a country benefits, if it fails, the country suffers. Furthermore, when the rule of law is valued and thrives, a nation is stable and its people are content, however, if it is neglected and weak, a country will fall into turmoil and its people become discontented,” he said.
Acting President Chiwenga urged law enforcement agents, political parties and other private entities to treat the constitution as the fundamental code of their activities.
He called upon the JSC to urgently establish High Court stations in other provincial centres.
“In the same vein, the establishment of this permanent High Court station is a supporting tool in Government’s policies, such as the ease of doing business initiative and the increase in Foreign Direct Investment into the country. It bears testimony not only to our commitment to open up the country for investment, but also increases the production and trading capacities of local industry.
“Business must draw confidence from the courts, which are now readily accessible to a wider populace in the country. Equally, business derives confidence from courts, which deal with cases promptly and not delaying in pronouncing their decisions,” he said.