THE Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has introduced an integrated electronic case management system to increase accountability, improve access to justice for every Zimbabwean and improve the quality of justice.
Addressing the media in Mutare yesterday (Thursday), Chief Magistrate Mr Munamato Mutevedzi said the new system would be rolled out in two phases, starting with the Constitutional, Supreme and Commercial Courts.
Trial runs will be done from the beginning of October until December 31, 2021 for the first phase of the programme.
Phase Two of the programme will be rolled out to the High, Labour and Magistrates’ Courts as well as the Sheriff and Master of the High Court’s offices respectively.
“We want full implementation of the programme for the Constitutional, Supreme and Commercial Courts from January 1, 2022. Beginning January 2022, nobody will be allowed to file any physical papers in the Constitutional, Supreme and Commercial Courts. They will be entirely paperless from January 1, 2022.
“We have put in place contingent plans to ensure that no litigant is left behind and cannot file papers in these courts because they do not have smart-phones, laptops, tabs, data, connectivity or a working email address.
“At every court station around the country we will employ an e-filling court attendant to assist litigants to file their papers, especially those coming from rural areas,” said Mr Mutevedzi.
He said they started with a home grown product, the case tracking system around 2013. The product was a localised form of electronic case tracking system that was piloted at the High Court in Harare.
“In our 2021-2025 strategic plan, the JSC adopted a motion to digitalise the Zimbabwean justice delivery system through the introduction of an integrated electronic case management system which is intended to increase the ranking of Zimbabwe in the ease of doing business index.
“The whole objective of introducing this system is that we want to implement a software based solution for the management of the entire lifecycle of every case, whether it is a criminal or civil case.
“We are calling it an integrated system because it encompasses all the sector players and it is not confined to the JSC only,” said Mr Mutevedzi.
He added: “We are introducing this system because we have seen that we were observing quiet a number of challenges in the court, the first one being failure to provide timely and effective service delivery because of the manual services we are currently using.
“Our work was limited to working hours and days only. When the offices close it means everything is closed, but with this new system you are able to work round the clock. You are able to file your papers round the clock.
“We also noted that all court processes are currently limited to the brick and mortar control, forcing the litigants and their representatives to actually visit the court station to file their papers.
“We are living in the Covid-19 era and find it totally unnecessary that people to continue visiting the courts when they can file their papers from the comfort of their homes and offices.”
He said they also aim to strengthen the accessibility and integrity of the Zimbabwe justice system by enabling relevant parties to interface with judiciary bodies electronically.
“We also want to go paperless through virtual courts. At times we don’t need to bring prisoners from prison to court. You can conduct a trial with the prisoner at the prison while the magistrate or the judge is in the court, with the parties interfacing on virtual platforms. Witnesses will be able to testify from far away places without having to travel to court,” he said.
The new system will also enable people to make online payments for any services required as well as track cases electronically.
The JSC is also working on establishing 32 courts for people with disabilities countrywide and translating some of the statutes into Braille.