The Judicial Service Commission has established a virtual court sittings meant to reduce backlog and time spent by prisoners in pre-trial detention whilst also helping reduce administration and operational costs.
Speaking at the launch at Harare Magistrates Court, Chief Justice Luke Malaba said through the virtual hearings, cases are efficiently concluded while also curbing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The digitisation of courts, particularly carrying out virtual hearings has many advantages both to the courts and the litigating public. Matters are finalised expeditiously and there is the added advantage of participating in the court proceedings in the comfort of your home or office. The first institution to benefit on the virtual court hearing platform is the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services.
“The pandemic has at times caused inmates not appear before the courts as required because of the restrictions imposed to combat the spread of Covid 19. Through the virtual hearing platform, it is no longer necessary for them to appear physically in court. They can interact with the court virtually whilst they are at prison. They can even make an application for bail virtually. The costs associated with transporting prisoners to and from courts are also done away with,” said Malaba.
Minister of Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Ziyambi Ziyambi said owing to the technological advancement and the adverse effects of the pandemic, the judiciary has to be prepared to guarantee its relevance within the constitutional democracy.
“The space within which the Judiciary finds itself is nothing less than a fast-paced, ever-evolving and uncertain environment. These advances are evidence of massive technological and operational developments that have occurred over the years. They continue to occur. No one can turn a blind eye to these evolutions and the uncertainty posed by technology and unforeseen pandemics such as COVID-19. In this light, the Judiciary has to be prepared for the unforeseeable changes in order to guarantee its relevance within our constitutional democracy.
“The paradigm shift from the conventional way of physically appearing at court to institute and defend lawsuits as well as making submissions is a new normal which we cannot shy away from. Virtual courts will not only be invaluable in this time of the pandemic but even beyond. Litigants will no longer need to always travel and attend courts physically. Rather they will be able to litigate and present and argue their cases at the comfort of their homes and offices,” said Ziyambi.
He said the equipment has already been installed at Harare Magistrates’ Court and at the Harare High Court and connects with Harare Remand Prison and Chikurubi Maximum Prison.