By Fidelis Munyoro
All pending criminal cases on remand shall be automatically rolled over for a period of at least 21 calendar days, beginning today, while criminal trials and civil cases have been deferred for the duration of the national lockdown to combat the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The country goes into a 21-day lockdown today as the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases spiked to seven, with one confirmed death. The lockdown was the principal measure announced by President Mnangagwa in an address to the nation on Friday.
According to the practice direction on courts operations issued yesterday, Chief Justice Luke Malaba said the new development was in line with the President’s most recent directives and guidelines on the Covid-19 induced pandemic national lockdown.
This will see all the superior courts, namely Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, the High Court, the Labour Court, the Administrative Court, going into recess earlier, for the first quarter break.
These courts were scheduled to end their term on April 3.
“For the Constitutional Court, Supreme Court, High Court, Labour Court and Administrative Court, the matters are deemed to have been postponed to the first day of the second term,” said Chief Justice Malaba.
“The Registrars of the respective courts shall reset the matters down in consultation with the parties. Provided that the Sheriff of the High Court will not charge the cost of service for such matters.”
To ensure that cases pending before the courts do not fall out of the system, Chief Justice Malaba said the practice direction was issued to give directions to the filing of pleadings, process and handling of cases before the courts from today until April 19.
He said the filing of new cases, all process and pleadings, shall be suspended for the duration of the national lockdown.
“Subject to existing limitations, only initial remands, urgent applications and bail applications may be entertained,” said Chief Justice Malaba.
“The time limited by any rule for the filing of process and or pleadings shall be suspended for the duration of the national lockdown.
“Any act required by the rules to have been done during the period of the lockdown within a specified period of time, shall be done within the specified limit calculated from the first business day following the last day of the lockdown period.”
The Magistrates’ Courts will only continue to hear initial remands, while all other matters are deemed to have been postponed to the first business day following the last day of the lockdown period.
This means all summonses and subpoenas issued directing accused persons and witnesses to appear in court between today and April are cancelled and shall be reissued after the expiry of the lockdown period.
It also means that all sales in execution are stayed for the duration of the lockdown period.
While most businesses will close, essential services and producers and retailers of essential goods will continue to be open, including food shops, pharmacies and informal food markets.
Power and water supplies are given high priority. The measures are being taken to ensure local business can make more of the needed equipment.
Public transport for essential workers will be restricted to services provided by Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) and the Public Service Commission (PSC) and they will be implementing new rules on disinfection and passenger spacing.
The lockdown will be enforced and civilian authority can be reinforced by security forces if necessary to ensure this happens and that peace and security are maintained.
The lockdown and other measures announced by the President arose from reports and recommendations from the inter-ministerial taskforce on Covid-19. The Herald