Courts resume operations next week
By Patrick Chitumba
All courts shall become fully operational with effect from May 11 as the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) is acquiring Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for its members, including judges and magistrates in compliance with the regulations announced by President Mnangagwa.
Last Friday, President Mnangagwa extended the lockdown by another two weeks but allowed some businesses to reopen under strict conditions.
Since the lockdown was first announced on March 30, courts have been attending to urgent matters, mainly remands, bail hearings and matters deemed urgent.
Solemnisation of marriages remain suspended until the end of the lockdown.
Those coming to court shall be subjected to temperature checks and sanitisation of hands at entrances and will be required to wear face masks, avoid person to person contact and maintain social distancing.
Businesses are required to ensure that all employees are tested for Covid-19.
Chief Justice Luke Malaba yesterday issued Practice Directions 3 of 2020, operational directions for the courts during the level two lockdown.
He said the Practice Directions replaces operational instructions announced in Practice Directions 1 and 2 of 2020 and applies to the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, the High Court, the Labour Court, the Administrative Court, and the Magistrates’ Courts in Zimbabwe.
“Following the proclamation on 1 May 2020 by His Excellency, the President that the country is moving into level two lockdown from 4 May 2020, these directions are issued to guide court operations during the level two lockdown period.
“For the purposes of implementing the measures introduced under level two lockdown, practice direction number 1 of 2020 as amended shall remain effective until the 10th of May 2020.
Accused persons automatically remanded to dates between 4 May 2020 and 8 May 2020 under practice direction 2 of 2020, will be remanded by the courts to dates after 11 May 2020,” he said.
The Chief Justice said warrants of arrest will be issued against any such person who doesn’t attend court for remand after May 11.
“All courts shall become operational with effect from May 11,” said CJ Malaba.
He said court functions and duties shall proceed in the manner set out in this practice direction.
“Registries shall be open for litigants, legal practitioners and the public on week days, between 0800hrs and 1500hrs. Filing of court documents, including process and pleadings, shall proceed in terms of the applicable rules, legislation or court order,” said CJ Malaba.
He said matters must be heard and determined expeditiously to avoid unnecessary attendances by litigants at courts.
The Sheriff, CJ Malaba said shall serve all other processes and orders, but shall not carry out evictions, executions or conduct sales in execution for the duration of the lockdown period.
He said solemnisation of marriages remain suspended for the duration of lockdown period.
“Litigants and other court users shall at all times:- be subjected to temperature checks and sanitisation of hands at entrances; wear face masks; avoid person to person contact; and maintain social distancing of at least one metre apart,” he said.
“Any person who does not comply with the requirements shall not be allowed to enter into the courthouse or courtroom or shall be asked to leave the courtroom or the courthouse.”
CJ Malaba said entry into court rooms shall be limited to litigants, their legal practitioners, witnesses and members of the press.
“Entry into courthouses shall not be permitted for members of the public who have no business at court. Litigants who are required to attend Court in a province or district other than where they are normally resident shall obtain the necessary letters of clearance at the nearest police station,” he said.
In an interview on Sunday, JSC secretary Mr Walter Chikwanha said courts were unable to open for all functions this week because of the unavailability of PPEs for judges, magistrates and staff.
“From Monday, managers and heads of departments are on duty putting in place systems for the courts to be fully operational come May 11. At the moment we have limited PPEs which we are giving out to managers and heads of departments who are there to prepare for May 11,” he said.
He said even furniture in court needed to be rearranged so that social distancing is maintained to mitigate against the spread of Covid 19. The Chronicle