INFORMATION ABOUT THE COURT OF ZIMBABWE
General Presentation of the Court.
Courts in Zimbabwe are therefore Constitutional establishments and the structure of Courts in Zimbabwe is as follows;
Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe
This is a superior court of record and consists of the Chief Justice and the deputy Chief Justice and 5 other judges of the Constitutional Court.
It is the highest court in all constitutional matters and its decisions on those matters bind all other courts. It is the final court in as far as constitutional cases are concerned.
Supreme Court of Zimbabwe
This is a superior court of record and consists of the Chief Justice and the deputy Chief Justice and no fewer than two other judges.
It is the final court of appeal except in matters over which the Constitutional Court has jurisdiction.
High Court of Zimbabwe(which also has divisions such as the Commercial Court, Electoral Court, Family Court, Criminal and Civil Court, Fiscal Appeals Court)
This is a superior court of record and consists of the Chief Justice, the Deputy Chief Justice and the Judge President of the High Court and such other judges as may be appointed from time to time.
The High Court has original jurisdiction over all civil and criminal matters throughout Zimbabwe. It supervises magistrates’ courts and other subordinate courts and reviews their decisions. It may decide constitutional matters except those that only the Constitutional Court may decide.
The Labour Court is a court of record and consists of the Judge President and such other judge of the Labour Court as may be appointed from time to time.
The Labour Court has jurisdiction over labour and employment issues.
The Administrative Court is a court of record and consists of the Judge President and such other judge of the Administrative Court as may be appointed from time to time.
The Administrative Court has jurisdiction over administrative matters.
The Magistrates Court consists of the Chief Magistrate and the deputy Chief
Magistrate, regional, provincial, and magistrates.
It has jurisdiction over criminal and civil matters in terms of the Magistrates Court
- The following are the names for the Heads of the above Courts:
HISTORY OF CONSTITUTIONAL JUSTICE.
- PERIOD BEFORE 2013
- Prior to 1980, there was no Constitutional Court in Rhodesia(now Zimbabwe).
- Constitutional matters were referred to the UK and were heard by the judicial committee of the privy council for instance the Madzimbamuto v Lardner-burke  1 ac 645 case , which was on the legality of the unilateral declaration of independence made by Rhodesia in 1965.
- The Lancaster House Agreement, signed on 21 December 1979, declared a ceasefire, ending the Rhodesian Bush War; and directly led to the creation and recognition of the Republic of Zimbabwe. The first democratic Constitution which came into being in 1980 after we attained our independence is commonly referred to as the Lancaster House Constitution.
- This is a Constitution that came out of a negotiated settlement to end the war that had ravaged the country.The Constitution was released but quickly became highly contested. Several provisions of the draft were rejected including the establishment of the Constitutional Court.
- The Lancaster House Constitution maintained the Bi-cameral legislature that was in place before the coming of independence. The Lancaster House Constitution provided for a justiciable Bill of Rights and a number of provisions were entrenched effectively, with a clause ousting the power of the legislature to amend provisions for several years for instance property rights.
- The motive behind this restriction to ensure that the negotiations of the Lancaster House conference are not overtaken by the inherent power of the newly independent sovereign Zimbabwe to alter and shape its founding documents which would render the deliberations and resolutions agreed upon nugatory.
- Constitutional matters were heard by the Supreme Court bench on an adhoc basis, and thus the Supreme Court had a dual role.
- PERIOD POST 2013.
- On 22 May 2013, Zimbabwe legislated its second democratic constitution referred to ordinarily as Constitution of Zimbabwe (Amendment No. 20) Act 2013.
- The new Constitution for the first time in the history of Zimbabwe created a court called the Constitutional court of Zimbabwe in terms of section 166.
- In pursuit of the rule of law, the Constitutional Court is the watchdog of the constitution.
- According to section 167 the Constitutional Court is the highest Court in all Constitutional matters and its decision on those matters bind all other courts. Apart from this, the Constitutional Court can advise on the Constitutionality of any proposed legislation, hear and determine disputes relating to election to the office of President etc.
- One of the most important provisions to note at this point is section 167 subsection (5) which connotes that
“Rules of the Constitutional Court must allow a person, when it is in the interests of Justice and with or without leave of the Constitutional Court- (a) to bring a constitutional matter directly to the Constitutional Court (b) to appeal directly to the Constitutional Court from any other Court (c) to appear as a friend of the Court”.
- The creation of the Constitutional Court thus enhances constitutionalism in our country as the court has jurisdiction to deal with constitutional matters.
FORMER CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS
As noted above, before the existence of the current Constitution there was a Constitution which came into being soon after independence in 1980 referred to as the Lancaster House Constitution.
The 2013 constitution as amended is attached hereto.
ORGANIC TEXTS RELATING TO THE INSTITUTION
- Prior to the period 2010, the Judicial Service Commission was under the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
- However, on 10 June 2010, the Commission was weaned off from the operations of the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and became a standalone institution.
- With the advent of the 2013 Constitution, the Judicial Service Commission of Zimbabwe is created by section 189 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. Its functions, which are stated in section 190 of the Constitution, include tendering advice to the Government of Zimbabwe on any matter relating to the judiciary or the administration of justice; as well as promoting and facilitating the independence and accountability of the judiciary and the efficient, effective and transparent administration of justice in Zimbabwe.
- In conducting its business, the Judicial Service Commission is required to do so in a just, fair and transparent manner.
- In this vein, while maintaining its autonomy in performing its constitutional mandate, the Judiciary remains accountable to the people of Zimbabwe from whom judicial authority is derived.
- The Judicial Service Commission has been guided by Strategic Plans in conducting its day to day operations, first the 2016 to 2020 Strategic Plan then the 2021 to 2025 Strategic Plan. The purpose of these Plans has been to establish the JSC’s greatest priorities and to provide general direction to guide its operations over five year periods.
Jurisprudence (Important Only)
Since the advent of the 2013 Constitution, the Constitutional Court bench has been delivering judgments which have been developing the jurisprudence in the region.
These judgments include;-
- SvChokuramba CCZ 10-19where the court held that corporal punishment on male juveniles convicted of an offence as unconstitutional and declared section 323 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act ultravires the Constitution.
- Mudzuru and Anor v Minister of Justice, legal and Parliamentary Afffairs CCZ 12-15 where the Court abolished child marriages and set eighteen years as the minimum age of marriage in Zimbabwe.
- Chamisa v Emmerson MnangagwaCCZ 21/19- Where a challenge of the validity of an election was made, pursuant to the 2018 election.
- In terms of the institution’s organogram, the research centre falls under the Judicial Training Institute of Zimbabwe(JTIZ).
- Currently it has 7 researchers who conduct research for the Secretariat and other departments within the Commission including as well as for judges.
- Further, sometime in 2014, the Judicial Service Commission in collaboration with the International Commission of Jurists established the Legal Research Department in the Superior Courts.
- These courts make judicial decisions based on informed points of law, reasoning and personal intuition. Hence, the Judicial Service Commission saw the need to appoint Research Assistants to the Judges in the higher courts who play a pivotal role in collection and collation of necessary legal information that would aid the courts to make informed decisions.
- This initiative was also a welcome development to Zimbabwe after the realisation that other jurisdictions in the region and beyond had adopted same. For instance in South Africa, each judge has a Professional Research Assistant. As such in the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court each Judge has a Professional Research Assistant whose duties include inter alia:
- Preparing Bench Memoranda for the Judges.
- Drafting Opinions.
- Writing Draft Judgments.
- Attending Court.
- This has yielded good results as sound judgments have been handed down over the past years. The backlog status of cases before Judges of the Supreme Court and Constitutional Courts has also significantly reduced. In the High Court, Judges have Judges’ Assistants who play more or less the same role as Research Assistants.
- There are currently 19 researchers in the Superior Courts.