By Robert Tapfumaneyi
CHIEF Justice Luke Malaba said the courts throughout the country performed well in 2020, but said there was a reduction of cases received by the courts during the period under review as compared to 2019.
He attributed the decline to the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.
“This scenario is attributed to the lockdown imposed to contain the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, courts failed to accept new processes except for urgent matters,” the chief justice said.
He was speaking the official opening of the 2021 legal year in Harare.
According to Malaba, the Constitutional Court, the case backlog for 2020 decreased by 76% (28 cases).
The Supreme Court had a clearance rate of 107% in 2020.
“It (Supreme Court) managed to clear more cases than it received. There are 379 cases being carried over to 2021. The overall backlog was reduced by 55 cases.”
The High Court received 6 259 less cases as compared to 2019 and the clearance rate was 92%.
The cases received at the Labour Court declined from 2 125 in 2019 to 1 469 in 2020, showing a 30.9% decline.
At the Administrative Court, there was an 82% clearance rate.
“It completed more matters than were received. 16 cases are carried over to the 2021 legal year. The backlog went down by 12 cases,” Malaba said.
At the magistrates’ courts, the lockdown measures affected both the number of cases received and those completed in the courts.
“Even after the lockdown was partially lifted, it remained very difficult for witnesses to attend court for trials. The majority of criminal cases are heard in this court, the court was, therefore, receiving cases and placing accused persons on remand, but very few cases were being finalised because no trials were taking place,” the chief justice said.
“This caused the increases in the backlog of criminal cases at most of the courts.”
At the regional courts, a total of 4 978 cases were received compared to 4 767 in 2019.