Chiweshe cancels over 50 000 pending High Court cases

In a bid to clear the ever-spiralling backlog of untried cases, Judge President Justice George Chiweshe yesterday announced the cancellation of all matters that have remained untried for between three and six months from the date of filing at the High Court.

Source: Chiweshe cancels over 50 000 pending High Court cases – NewsDay Zimbabwe January 17, 2017

By Tatenda Chitagu

Dormant cases occur in the event where court officials fail to locate witnesses for various reasons.

Officially opening the 2017 legal year at the Masvingo High Court, Justice Chiweshe said such inactive cases had led to the ballooning of untried matters.

His remarks come in the wake of over 50 000 untried cases following an audit of High Court matters filed between 2002 and 2012, particularly in Harare.

“The results of the Harare audit shows that the bulk of statistics representing the ‘backlog’ comprise of ‘inactive’ or ‘dormant’ files. These files are improperly included in the backlog statistics, thereby distorting the actual workload at the High Court and consequently portraying an insurmountable backlog,” he said.

“This distorted backlog has been carried over into succeeding years, as work that is pending before the judges, whereas, in truth and in fact these are cases that have long been abandoned by the litigants for one reason or another. They have never been pursued and for that reason cannot be actioned in any way by either the registrar or the judges.”

Justice Chiweshe said there were now new regulations to abandon cases that have been dormant for at most six months.

“To ensure that we maintain the current state of affairs, we shall, henceforth, adopt the following interventions:
That the rules be amended by the inclusion of a provision deeming all matters that remain inactive for a period of at least three months from the date of filing or at most six months from such date, to have been abandoned and, therefore, archival. Pending amendment of the rules, a practice direction, which is now in place, has been issued to that effect.”

He said such provisions also apply to chamber applications, where queries raised in regard to the matter have not been responded to within a given time-frame. The Judge President proposed the adoption of a judicial management of cases, where judges drive the process and supervise the timeous movement of files, thereby, ensuring finality in litigation.