Source: UPDATED: President defends workers’ rights | The Herald May 14, 2019
Fidelis Munyoro and Victor Maphosa
A well-organised labour system is critical in the progressive realisation of workers’ rights and sustenance of business, President Mnangagwa has said.
Speaking during the commissioning of a state-of-the-art Labour Court, next to the Harare Magistrates’ Courts yesterday, President Mnangagwa said the new courthouse was a historic development in the Second Republic’s quest to enhance the administration of labour justice.
He said the Labour Court was an integral component in the Government’s “Ease of Doing Business Reforms”.
The “Zimbabwe is Open for Business” philosophy entails the speedy prevention, resolution and determination of contractual disputes between employers and employees, he said.
“The efficiency of the Labour Court is therefore critical to the achievements and objectives outlined under these reforms (Transitional Stabilisation Programme).”
The President said the Government would not relent from implementing measures to turn around the economy.
To this end, he said, the relocation of the Labour Court to the new courthouse resonated with Government’s stance on the need to open the country for investment by promoting openness in the doing of business.
“Employers and employees are at the centre of business; business, in turn, relies on the courts to protect not only proprietary interests, but also the interests of workers,” he said.
The President implored the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to speed up the decentralisation of the Labour Court in line with Government’s policy of devolution.
Under the devolution, all state institutions must be available in every provinces of the country to allow equitable development of the nation.
This is in keeping with the transitional stabilisation programmes for the implementation of the country’s development programmes to allow for devolution to achieve fair and balanced development, spearheaded by provincial councils which would initiate development programmes for their respective provinces, consistent with Section 264 of the Constitution.
Access to the Labour Court must not remain a preserve of a few, President Mnangagwa said, taking note that millions of workers are being served by only three Labour Court stations and 14 judges in Harare, Bulawayo and Gweru.
He promised to address the situation with a greater sense of urgency.
The President said his Government would continuously revise and amend the country’s labour laws in line with international best practices.
“This will be done in line with the needs and dictates of our times, global best practice, our vision 20130, as well as the modernisation and industrialisation agenda to maintain the proper balance between the attainment of increased productivity and workplace harmony,” he said.
President Mnangagwa also hailed the JSC for their project of setting up specialised courts, such as the small claims courts, commercial courts in the magistrates’ courts and high courts.
“All these efforts will be cumulatively contributing to social justice and in the process open our country to more opportunities for foreign direct investment,” he said.
The Government, said President Mnangagwa, was aware of the challenges facing the courts. He, however, reminded them to serve the interests of the people before anything else.
“The direct involvement of the people in the administration of justice can never be underestimated,” he said. “We must continuously listen to the public concerns and take on board their contributions.”
President Mnangagwa said the setting up of specialised anti-corruption courts dedicated to the trial of corruption related cases is an integral part of the Second Republic. Corruption has become a cancer spreading across the entire spectrum of the economic sectors.
With the transitional stabilisation programme measures have been put in place to uproot entrenched indiscipline and corruption, including nipping in the bud all opportunities for rent seeking.
“Whilst we may be experiencing teething challenges, I implore all those who play a role in this mammoth task, to remain steadfast, honest and upright in the execution of their duties,” he said.
“Success in this regard is imperative as it impacts on our quest to establish a corrupt free society, accelerate development and speedily improve the quality of life of our people.”
The President also said the Government was committed to the rule of law and assured those accused of committing crimes that the courts would decide their cases in accordance with the law.
“We respect the sanctity of the principle of separation of powers amongst the three pillars of the state and will not interfere with decisions of the courts,” he said. “However, I have said in the past; in the Second Republic no one is above the law.” The new courthouse is set to promote the access and delivery of justice in a conducive environment.
In his remarks, Chief Justice Luke Malaba said the opening of the Labour Court is a step towards improving access to justice by all in the country.
“The event marks another milestone in the Judicial Service Commission’s endeavor to improve access to justice,” he said.
“In this regard, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) continues to discharge its institutional responsibility and constitutional mandate to improve access to justice through the construction of state-of-the-art infrastructure, accommodative of the needs of a modern society.”
He said the relocation of the Labour Court to the new premises is a fulfilment of the promise made by the JSC to the public at the launch of its second five-year Strategic Plan in 2016.
In its roadmap, the JSC singled out several strategic focus areas, including the provision of facilities to ensure access to justice for every person in the country, consistent with the constitutional obligation on the State to promote fundamental human rights.
“For us in the Judiciary, access to justice involves extending every facet of the judicial system to the reach of the general populace by removing barriers,” he said.
“In our view, the obligation is not limited to provision of more courtrooms and more manpower but also speaks to ensuring the quality of justice dispensed by the courts,” he said.
Chief Justice Malaba said any Judiciary worth its name should make concrete and identifiable efforts aimed at eradicating all barriers that may hinder access to justice.