Source: Commercial courts open countrywide | The Herald March 5, 2019
Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Reporter
THE newly-established Magistrates Commercial Courts and small claims courts opened their doors to the public yesterday across the country’s 10 provinces and are mandated with expeditiously resolving commercial disputes and making Zimbabwe a safe investment destination in line with Government’s Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP).
The TSP is underpinned by structural reform measures to mitigate the challenges and risks faced by the economy.
The measures include deepening the ease and cost of doing business, reforms to improve competitiveness and establish a One-Stop Shop Investment Centre, public enterprise reforms and labour law reforms.
The specialised courts are expected to dispense world class justice without delay.
They are a product of the Ease of Doing Business Reforms being spearheaded by the Office of President and Cabinet, in partnership with the World Bank and other stakeholders, including the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).
This comes hard on the heels of a recent World Bank announcement, ranking Zimbabwe 155th out of 190 countries, an improvement from position 159 which the country held in 2017.
Last week 32 magistrates, designated to run the specialised courts, underwent a two-day refresher course on how to preside over commercial disputes.
JSC acting secretary Mr Walter Chikwana confirmed the development saying the courts were now operational.
“On Friday and Saturday, selected judicial officers were training on how to properly deal with commercial disputes.
“Today, they started operating in all the 10 provinces,” said Mr Chikwana.
Officially opening the training workshop on Friday, Deputy Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Ray Ndhlukula urged the judicial officers to play their part in boosting the investor confidence through dispensing quality justice within reasonable time.
“JSC comes in to resolve commercial disputes expeditiously. Your role is simply to deliver quality justice with speed.
“Quality decisions and expedience boosts people’s confidence in the justice system and attract investors to Zimbabwe.
“The Judiciary also has to enforce the controls and protect minority investors. There are lots of commercial disputes. For example, a shareholder with 33 percent may want to push around minority shareholders with two percent or less while others have two percent. Laws should be in place to protect those investors,” he said.
Dr Ndhlukula hailed the Judiciary for cooperating in coming up with ease of doing business reforms.
“I am happy to say, we have received maximum cooperation from the Judiciary as far as ease of doing business is concerned.
“I remember as far back as 2016 when we approached the then Judiciary boss, the late retired Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku about the need to establish these commercial law courts.
“He was so enthusiastic and he undertook to establish the courts as per request. Today, as we sit here, that reality is manifesting,” he said.
Speaking at the training workshop, Mr Chikwana said JSC intended to take the commercial courts down to every district in Zimbabwe.
“We are going to introduce small claims at every provincial centre and any other district centres in Zimbabwe. We have started renovating our courts to implement this position.
“We have identified judicial officer to man these courts. I wish to advise you, deputy chief secretary, that the crop of judicial officers you see here, is the first one that we have identified,” he said.
Mr Chikwana said the Judiciary was ready to play its part in achieving the national goal of being an upper middle income economy by 2030.
“While we appreciate Government’s position of improving ease of doing business and to create environment where matters are disposed of as quickly as possible, we as the Judiciary, are also doing this to achieve our own mandates in terms of the Constitution and our strategic planning.
“We train our magistrates to finalise matters as expeditious as possible, then we will be able to meet our constitutional mandate that matters should be finalised expeditiously,” he said.
Expeditious and quality judgments, Mr Chikwana said, also help the Judiciary to meet one of its mandates in terms of the strategic plan.
He urged magistrates to take the new task seriously for the development of the nation.
“I would advise our magistrates here that if you look at the quality of resource persons that we have invited, it speaks to the seriousness to which we are taking this training.
“It also speaks to the journey that we are beginning today, to create a crop of magistrates whom we believe have the capacity to deal with matters of commercial nature and resolve commercial disputes expeditiously with the quality of justice that the people of Zimbabwe want,” he said.
Zimbabwe has so far made strides in making it easier to deal with construction permits by reducing time for processing permit applications.
According to the World Bank, Zimbabwe made dealing with construction permits faster by adopting a one-stop shop for building plan approvals.
The World Bank also acknowledged the country’s efforts on improving the sharing of credit information after it “introduced bureau or registry credit scores as a value added service”.
Zimbabwe according to the World Bank, also made positive strides making it easier to start a business by reducing the time needed to obtain a business licence.
Getting credit information has also improved through increased coverage of the credit registry and providing consumer and commercial credit scores to banks and financial institutions.
Zimbabwe also made enforcing contracts easier by making judgments rendered at the appellate and Supreme Court level in commercial cases available to the general public online.