CHIEF Justice Luke Malaba says more judicial remedies need to be done to make sure vulnerable members of society have access to justice and are not frightened by its systems.
Malaba emphasised that under the law, everyone was equal therefore no one must be excluded in seeking retribution while the financial cost had to be revised so citizens could afford legal representation.
Speaking at the commissioning of three additional courtrooms at the Bulawayo High Court, Friday, Malaba also spoke firmly against corruption and urged judges to act decisively on perpetrators.
The commissioning of these three additional courtrooms brings the number of courtrooms at the Bulawayo High Court to six, of which Malaba said marked steps by the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) to improve access to justice.
“There is no access to justice when citizens, especially the marginalised and vulnerable groups fear the judicial system and see it as an alien,” he noted.
“There is no access to justice when the justice system is financially inaccessible and citizens cannot afford legal representation”.
The chief justice said he was aware access to justice was not achieved through construction of courthouses but through quality service delivery.
“These are those officers that will make brick and mortar structures fountains of justice. All of us who are connected with the administration of justice at every level must always bear in mind that the power we wield does not belong to us it is belongs to those who seek the services for the delivery of which they entrusted us with the power. They are masters, we are servants.”
Malaba stressed that as the judiciary, they maintained the stance that cases of corruption must be dealt with decisively by the courts.
“For the judiciary to plan the central role in combating corruption, its members must be beyond reproach in the execution of their duties. We have embarked on a programme of continuous judicial education and training to inculcate into judicial officers the necessary values for fighting corruption,” he said.
“It is disheartening to note that corruption continues to affect all facets of life in our society. It is against that background that I also urge litigants and the public to expose corrupt practices which they experience in the administration of justice”.
Malaba explained that the creation of the three additional courtrooms at the High Court in Bulawayo coincides with government’s efforts to devolve governance issues and responsibilities to provincial and councils.
“Bulawayo is earmarked to be an industrial hub of the nation. The expansion of the courthouse will make sure disputes arising from the anticipated upsurge in commerical activity are speedily resolved. These projects are clear indication of the trajectory which the JSC is taking,” he said.
The chief justice highlighted that such developments were a result of careful planning, as the number of courtrooms was deliberately chosen to match the official establishment of judges at this station who are six.
“The idea of the creation of the additional courtrooms came out of the realization at the time that there were three courtrooms and six judges. That meant that three judges would be in court at any given time. Cases that could have been heard and disposed of were postponed.
The system was not conducive to the achievement of JSC objective of making sure to access to justice to our people,” Malaba said.
Currently the Bulawayo High Court station is manned by four judges following the retirement of Justice Lawrence Kamocha and the elevation to the supreme court of Justice Francis Bere.