Zimbabwe Posed to have Virtual Courts

Zimbabwe is in the process to have legislation that ensures and provides for the operation of virtual courts. The Judicial Laws Amendment Bill will among other things have an enabling framework that will facilitate the setting and operation of virtual courts in Zimbabwe.

The Centre for Applied Legal Research (CALR), working in partnership with UNICEF Zimbabwe and the Parliament of Zimbabwe, held an interactive sensitization session in Harare on Thursday 28 July 2022 with the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs discussing to unpack the Judicial Laws Amendment Bill.

The interactive session was meant to enlighten and embolden the committee’s knowledge of the Judicial Laws Amendment Bill. Key to this Amendment Bill is a provision that will ensure the operation of virtual courts, making e-justice a reality in Zimbabwe.

Discussions were centered on E-justice and the establishment of virtual courts, alignment of laws that establish the judiciary with the Constitution, that is aligning the High Court Act, the Labour Act, Supreme Court Act and the Magistrates Act amongst others to ensure an expeditious and cost-effective justice system.

In his opening remarks, Honorable Raidza highlighted the important role played by CALR and UNICEF Zimbabwe in supporting the holding of this interactive meeting to ensure that the Parliamentary Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs has an expert analysis of the Bill. He further explained how the interactive meeting would ensure that the committee has an enhanced understanding of the bill which will lead the committee to debate the bill from an informed position.

The Judicial Laws Amendment Bill was gazetted on 29 April 2022, it is one of the laws that the Executive targeted to have aligned with the Constitution.

Virtual Court sittings for both criminal and civil courts will be a key feature of this proposed law. The need for virtual courts became apparent during the peak of COVID-19 in 2020 and it’s commendable that we will likely have a law to ensure the operation of virtual courts.

The committee highlighted and explored the operation of the proposed virtual court sittings, and the public can be part of the court sittings remotely as it is proposed to have provisions that ensure the sharing of details of the virtual courts with the public. Concerns were also noted about the digital divide and how the law should cater to those who have less and limited internet access. The issue of consent was also raised and the legislators brainstormed on how parties can consent to have the virtual courts. It was discussed that the virtual courts will be done to serve the best interests of all parties involved.

It is notable to see how Zimbabwe’s judicial system is being channeled and improved in line with regional and international standards, whilst appreciating the role of information and technology. The Judicial Service Commission has an integrated electronic case management system, where the web-based case management system automates and tracks all aspects of a case life cycle, from initial filing through to the disposition and appeal. Zimbabwe’s justice system is making strides in realizing the great impact of ICT tools.

In his closing remarks, CALR Executive Director, Mr. Nyasha Chishakwe thanked the legislators for attending the interactive meeting. He highlighted how the interactive meeting was a platform intended to shade light and provide clarity on what the Bill intends to achieve.

It is parliament’s mandate to ensure that the Judicial Laws Amendment Bill is properly scrutinized and then debated and passed as law, if necessary, the interactive session was meant to embolden the legislators’ knowledge of the Bill, Mr. Chishakwe added.













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