GOVERNMENT’S efforts to support the economy through judicial reforms yesterday went a gear up after a committee appointed to craft rules of the Commercial Court handed over its draft to Chief Justice Luke Malaba.
The Commercial Court is a division of the High Court of Zimbabwe, established in terms of the Commercial Court Act to effectively and expeditiously resolve commercial disputes in line of the Government’s thrust of making Zimbabwe more attractive for investment.
In terms of the draft rules, commercial disputes must be resolved within 10 months. Reforms are being done under the World Bank-supported Ease of Doing Business programme with a view to turn Zimbabwe into an upper-middle income economy by 2030.
The establishment of the Commercial Courts falls under the thematic working group on “Enforcing Contracts and Resolving Insolvency” chaired by Judicial Service Commission (JSC) deputy secretary Mr Sithembinkosi Msipa.
The group was tasked with working on the Small Claims Court Act, Commercial Court Act, High Court Act, Insolvency Act, Estate Administrators Act and the Banking Act to ensure speedy resolution of commercial disputes and protecting investors’ interests.
Improving the time and cost efficiency of contract enforcements by 75 percent and 10 percent, respectively, is another objective of the thematic group.
Chief Justice Malaba in January appointed a vibrant team of experienced legal practitioners and JSC staff to draft the rules of the Commercial Court, which is a division of the High Court. The committee is chaired by Masvingo High Court judge Justice Joseph Mafusire.
Zimbabwe’s top legal brains constituting the committee include Mr Edwin Manikai of Dube, Manikai & Hwacha, Mr Addington Chinake of Kantor & Immerman, Mr Tinoziva Bere of Bere Brothers, Judicial Service Commission (JSC) deputy secretary Mr Sithembinkosi Msipa and the registrar of Masvingo High Court Mrs Renika Dzikiti.
Having been appointed in January, the committee members completed the task in less than three months. Speaking at the handover ceremony yesterday, Justice Mafusire said the draft rules were now in place and they should now be forwarded to the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
“It is our collective pleasure as members of the Commercial Court Rules Committee, to announce to his Lordship with joyfulness that the task for which the committee was constituted has been completed.
“There is now in place a draft of the High Court of Zimbabwe (Commercial Division) Rules which the committee is confident to hand over to his lordship for the further processes required for promulgation into law,” he said. Justice Mafusire said commercial disputes should be completed with 10 months.
The draft rules overhaul the urgent chamber application procedure. Justice Mafusire said the rules try to strike a balance between the right of a losing party to appeal a judgment and the right of the successful party to execute that judgment.
The rules take into account the need to simplify the court process as well as curtailment and minimisation of costs and time. The court will be fully digitised as the rules are aligned to the integrated electronic case management system. Receiving the draft rules, Chief Justice Malaba hailed the committee its dedication to the work.
“I never dreamt of receiving the draft rules this soon. It is rare to find this kind of dedication and commitment to work. You have the passion and vision which you have shared with us in the manner in which you drafted the rules. “You have introduced a very important aspect of timelines to our work. At JSC, we have timelines but surely we cannot match this pace,” said Chief Justice Malaba.
“I believe this is a qualitative piece of work which requires little alterations, if any,” he said. He hailed the committee members for the professionalism they demonstrated in executing the work. Chief Justice Malaba asked the same committee to work on another set of the Magistrates’ Commercial Court Rules.
Magistrates’ Commercial Courts started operating in all provinces on March 1 with the same aim of delivering world class justice and speedily resolving commercial disputes. Meanwhile JSC has covered ground in preparing for the launch of the High Court’s Commercial Court.
The building has since been acquired, Bristols House along Kwame Nkrumah Avenue in Harare and renovations are now in progress