BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has urged judicial authorities in Africa to adopt information communication technologies (ICTs) to enhance justice delivery system amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mnangagwa made the call yesterday while officially opening the southern African chief justices’ conference and annual general meeting in Victoria Falls.
The conference is being held under the theme The Judiciary and Technology in Africa, and attended by chief justices from various southern African countries.
Mnangagwa said ICTs were now an absolute necessity in people’s day-to-day lives, including the justice delivery system, owing to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As the Judiciary, you too must adopt progressive innovations relevant to your field,” he said.
“For example, we have witnessed those in the health sector adopting telemedicine and deployment of drones to deliver medicines. Taking a leaf from this, the justice sector should also harness the potential of ICT to conduct virtual hearings, video conferencing and e-justice, including electronic case management, among other digital interactive methods. It is my fervent hope that your deliberations at this conference will broaden perspectives on how to take advantage of the various digital solutions and platforms to further enhance the administrations of justice in the region.”
He, however, cautioned the judicial officers against further marginalising the vulnerable communities who had no access to ICT connectivity, thus infringing their rights to access justice.
“As we move forward with this new normal, we must remain cognisant of realities on the ground,” Mnangagwa said.
“Accessibility of new measures by vulnerable and marginalised communities must also be given attention. Lack of ICT connectivity and skills coupled with varying economic situations should not unduly infringe on our people‘s right to access justice.
“A needs-based approach is essential, where specific requirements of particular communities are to be catered for. Wholesome implementation of the new technology-based innovations, without taking into account such special needs of the rural population, has the capacity to undo all our efforts towards breaking barriers to access to justice.”
He also warned against threats of cybercrimes such as hacking, which could jeopardise protection of litigants’ privacy and confidentiality of court documents and the litigation processes in general.
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