Judge President expresses concern at prevalence of robbery and murder cases

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By James Muonwa l Mashonaland West Correspondent

JUDGE President Mary Zimba-Dube has expressed concern over the high number of robbery and murder cases undergoing trial at Chinhoyi High Court.

The top jurist said most matters dealt with at the new station, which was officially opened in September 2021, involved robbery and killings, which have disastrous consequences on families.

Officially opening the 2023 Legal Year at Chinhoyi High Court Monday, Dube described as “disconcerting” the high prevalence of the twin vices.

“There is a high incidence of robbery and murder cases in the area under review. The number of murder cases in this province is disconcerting as murder has serious effects on the lives of surviving family members,” said the judge president.

“The police do their best to curb crime. The police cannot on their own prevent and protect the public from crime. It is our responsibility as members of our different communities to report crime to law enforcement agencies and actively discourage crime.

“…it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the efforts put in by other stakeholders in the criminal justice system. This first term of the 2023 Legal Year, the National Prosecuting Authority has indicted and set down for trial 25 murder cases.”

The cases are drawn from Chinhoyi, Kadoma, Karoi, Mutorashanga, Zvimba, Chemagamba, Magunje, Kariba, Mhangura and Kenzamba.

Dube highlighted that overall performance of the High Court for the year 2022 was very good and applauded honourable judges for the good work.

The Chinhoyi seat was officially opened on September 3, 2021 and Justice Philda Muzofa was deployed as resident judge.

The judge president revealed plans were afoot to increase the complement of judges as a result of heavy workload at the station.

“A total 1 515 cases were received during the year 2022. A total of 1 474 cases were completed during the legal year under review, giving a completion rate of 97%.”

Only 41 cases remained pending at end of last year and rolled over to 2023.

Two Harare-based judges, Justices Pisirayi Kwenda and Catherine Bachi-Mzawazi, have been carrying out relief duties during the course of the year 2022.

Dube also told the gathering there were now draft guidelines to standardise sentencing of offenders.

This followed formation of a Sentencing Council set up in terms of section 334A of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, chapter 9:07 to organise and manage the affairs of a Sentencing Conference.

“The said council produced draft sentencing guidelines with the objective of reducing sentencing disparities as well as promote transparency, uniformity, consistency and proportionality in the sentencing process, thereby enhancing public confidence in the sentencing process.”

The judge president said the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) would be recruiting more judges so that it is equipped to deal with the ever-increasing number of matters filed in the upper courts.

Currently, the total complement of judges in the High Court stands at 40 judges deployed as follows: 28 at Harare, five at Bulawayo, two at Masvingo, two at Mutare and one at Chinhoyi, one at the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and one at the Zimbabwe Anti Corruption Commission (ZACC).