THE five judges from the Bulawayo High Court are highly overworked as they are expected to handle matters from four provinces each year, judge Justice Lawrence Kamocha said while officially opening the Gweru High Court circuit on Monday.
Justice Kamocha said the five have a very heavy work load, which they are expected to complete and this has resulted in some cases going for over six to eight years before they are completed.
“The five judges handle criminal and civil cases from the whole of the Midlands, Matabeleland South and Bulawayo provinces,” he said.
“The judges deal with all criminal and civil appeals from all Magistrates’ Courts. What this means is there is a very heavy workload for the five judges.”
Kamocha’s statements come at a time Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku has slammed some judges, accusing them of laziness.
According to the judge, presently the Midlands has 221 dockets which are ready for trial and are expected to be dealt with by the High Court circuit.
Kamocha said there was little time for the judges to handle matters while on circuit court and this highly affected the justice delivery system.
“The circuit only comes three times a year and for only two weeks at a time and this time is hardly enough for us to dispense with the set down matters,” he said.
“For instance, I have 19 matters set down for this circuit, can you imagine how one completes 19 cases in two weeks?”
Kamocha said by the time the court finally hears some of the cases in six to eight years, some of the accused persons or witnesses would have relocated or died, affecting the completion of such matters.
“Due to the above, it takes long for cases to be set down for trial due to the unavailability of a permanent court and by the time cases are set down for trial it is after six to eight years and the accused and witnesses would have moved to other areas,” he said.
During the 2014 legal year at the Gweru High Court circuit a total 47 cases were on the roll and of these 21 failed to take off due to time constraints, while nine failed to kick off because the accused persons could not be located.
Kamocha said only 17 matters were completed during that time a far cry from the rate at which crime was being committed.
“Cases failed to take off despite being set down for trial due to failure to locate accused persons and witnesses,” he said.
“The rate at which offences are committed does not match the rate at which cases are cleared.”