CHIEF Justice Luke Malaba and opposition political parties could be headed for a bruising showdown after he reportedly ordered court registrars to furnish his office with information on all election-related cases prior to them being filed at the courts.
A circular seen by NewsDay written by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to registrars stipulates the procedures to be followed in managing electoral matters. Titled: Practice Direction Number 2 of 2023: Management of Electoral Matters, the circular was dated November 30 and signed by Justice Malaba.
The new development comes after the main opposition Citizens Coalitions for Change (CCC) accused the Judiciary of being captured by the ruling Zanu PF party as all judgments were going against the Nelson Chamisa-led party.
However, JSC secretary Walter Chikwanha said he was not aware of the circular when contacted for comment yesterday.
According to the circular, the registrars should immediately, and not later 24 hours, notify Malaba and issue directions on the management of the matters.
The circular purported that post-election matters arising from declaration of poll results should be finalised within two months and not more than 90 days.
“Upon filing an electoral matter, a registrar shall immediately and in any event, no later than twenty-four hours from the time of filing place the matter before the Chief Justice, Judge President or senior judge as the case may be, for giving of directions on the management of the matter. The Chief Justice, Judge President or senior judge shall forthwith issue directions on the matter,” partly read the circular.
The circular said where it was fit, the Chief Justice, Judge President or senior judge would, accordingly, direct the registrar to invite the parties to a case management meeting.
Malaba, two years ago presided over the swearing in of Judge President Justice Mary Zimba-Dube who replaced Justice George Chiweshe.
“Upon the referral of a matter to him or her in terms of paragraph 3.1 above, Chief Justice, Judge President or senior judge shall allocate the electoral matter to a judge or judges.
“In post electoral matters, that is any electoral matters arising after a declaration of the result of an election has been made, the timelines shall be such that matters are finalised within two months after filing and in any other cases, not more than ninety days from the declaration of the electoral result.
“A finalised electoral matter is one in which a final judgment has been passed and the reasons thereof, if any handed down,” the circular noted, further stating that judges dealing with electoral matters at the first instance should, in determining the timelines for hearing and finalisation of the matter, take into account the possibility of a subsequent appeal or review that may be made.
“In the pre-electoral matters, that is any electoral matters arising before an election had been conducted, the timelines shall be such that matters are finalised within a week of their filing and, insofar as it may be possible not less than twenty-one days before the election.
“In electoral matters arising during an election, matters shall be managed with the utmost urgency so as to ensure that they are disposed of insofar as it may be possible within two days of the date of filing and before the conclusion of election or the declaration of the results of the election,” the circular added.
Strict instructions on case management procedures are also highlighted in the circular which insists on strict timelines within which electoral matters are to be prosecuted.
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