High Court backlog balloons

THE High Court only managed to complete less than half of the trials it was supposed to conduct last year due to several challenges, among them failure to locate accused persons.

Source: High Court backlog balloons – NewsDay Zimbabwe August 11, 2016


This came out in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) 2015 annual report recently tabled before the National Assembly by Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is in charge of the Justice ministry.

“It is noteworthy that in 2015, in the High Court, 46% of trials were completed, 36% of trials were partly heard and 18% were postponed at various stages,” the report read.

A total of 454 cases were set down, with 209 completed and 165 partly heard.

“This was a result of challenges, which had a direct bearing on the final outcome of trials, which include non-location of accused persons, late transferring of indicted accused persons from outside prison stations to Harare and Bulawayo remand and, in some cases, failure by some pro-deo lawyers to prepare defence outlines on time and failure by State witnesses to secure bus fare to attend trials,” it said.

The unavailability of expert witnesses, such as Cuban doctors, who have ended their tour of duty, also affected trials.

“There was also elevation of judges to the Supreme Court, which left some courts without presiding judges, leaving matters in abeyance for some time, waiting to be re-set down,” the report said.

At the magistrates’ court, 75% of the total cases were heard and concluded, despite the court facing several challenges, such as low staffing levels and unfavourable conditions of service.

A total of 155 694 cases were heard by the magistrates’ court, and 88 662 were completed, while 67 023 are still pending, with the majority of the cases being in Mashonaland West (13 556) followed by Midlands (12 268) and Harare (12 254).

“The crimes, most prevalent at the magistrates’ courts were rape, assault, theft, stocktheft, fraud, murder, poaching, theft of copper cables, corruption, smuggling and robbery,” the report says

The NPA said if human resources and the number of prosecutors countrywide were increased, as well as improvement of remuneration for prosecutors to more suitable levels, the year 2016 might witness the number of pending cases being drastically reduced.