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HALF the country’s magistrate’s courts are operating from rented and unsuitable facilities, Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku revealed this week.

Chidyausiku said the government has since embarked on a programme to refurbish and construct magistrate’s courts in the country’s major centres in a bid to address the problem.

The Chief Justice made the remarks while presiding over the official opening of a new courthouse in Norton.

“Like all other institutions that derive funding from the national purse, financing our priorities as the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has been hampered by the general low disbursements from the national purse for operational costs.

“We have found out that out of 52 magistrates’ courts that we have countrywide, more than 26 of these are operating from rented and unsuitable premises,” said Chidyausiku.

“It is our desire to roll out a national programme to ensure that each magistrate’s court operates from a building that enhances the administration of justice in the country.”

He said the JSC had so far managed to put up new structures at five centres around the country.

“We started off with six identified areas where we have now put up structures and Norton is one of them, the other five are at Mutoko, Murehwa, Guruve, Esigodini and Tsholotsho.

“It is hoped that within the next in 30 years, JSC of that day will be more innovative than us and will be putting up a treble storey building for the magistrates’ court say in Binga, the likes of Rotten Row or better.”

Chidyausiku said it was the judiciary’s intention to put up brick and mortar structures on 30 additional sites based on the same model as the Norton Courthouse.

Construction and refurbishment of magistrates’ courts is being carried out with the assistance of the Danish government.

Chidyausiku said he was pleased that the magistrate’s courts have cleared its outstanding cases.

“In August 2010, the backlog in the magistrates’ courts stood at 48 532 cases but as of March 2014, this has now been reduced to 4 122 cases.

“In real terms, the backlog has been cleared, the main cause for delay of cases in the magistrates’ courts as of now is to be found in the period between the arrest of the accused and the completion of the docket to enable the trial to commence,” he said.

Source : New Zimbabwe