The High Court is a superior court of record established in terms of section 170 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, 2013.
It consists of
(a) the Chief Justice, the Deputy Chief Justice and the Judge President of the High Court and
(b) such other Judges of the High Court as may be appointed from time to time.
The Judge President is the administrative head of the High Court.
It has permanent seats at Harare, Bulawayo, Masvingo and Mutare.
The Court also sits as a circuit for two weeks every term at Gweru and Hwange.
The dates of the sittings are published in a General Notice issued by the Chief Justice in the Government Gazette at the beginning of each legal year.
In terms of section 171(1) the High Court has: -
(a) original jurisdiction over all civil and criminal matters throughout Zimbabwe;
(b) jurisdiction to supervise magistrates’ courts and other subordinate courts and to review their decisions;
(c) may decide constitutional matters except those that only the Constitutional Court may decide; and
(d) such appellate jurisdiction as may be conferred on it by an Act of Parliament.
For purposes of exercising its jurisdiction, the High Court is regulated by the High Court Act [Chapter 7:06] (the Act); the High Court Rules, 1971; the High Court
(Criminal Procedure) Rules, 1964; the High Court of Zimbabwe (Bail) Rules, 1991; and the High Court (Authentication of Documents) Rules, 1971.
Section 3 of the Act provides that the High Court shall be duly constituted-
(a) for the purpose of exercising its original jurisdiction in any civil matter, if it consists of one or more judges of the High Court;
(b) for the purpose of hearing a criminal trial, if it consists of one judge of the High Court and two assessors;
(c) for the purpose of exercising its powers to review the proceedings or decision of any inferior court, tribunal or administrative authority, if it consists of one or more
judges of the High Court;
(d) for the purpose of exercising its appellate jurisdiction in any matter, if it consists of not less than two judges of the High Court.
In criminal matters the High Court has jurisdiction over all persons and over all criminal offences recognised at law in Zimbabwe.
It has power to pass any punishment permitted by law, including the death penalty.
Its powers of punishment are unrestricted in regards to monetary levels or the length of imprisonment that may be imposed except in instances where a statute has imposed limitations.
The High Court also exercises both review and appellate jurisdiction over all criminal matters determined by the Magistrates’ Court.
In civil matters the High court has full original jurisdiction over all persons and over all matters within Zimbabwe. Its original jurisdiction is unlimited in that it may deal with any
nature of claim.
There is no monetary limit to claims that may be instituted.
It is the only court which enjoys inherent jurisdiction.
This means that unless expressly prohibited by some law from exercising jurisdiction, it is deemed to have jurisdiction.
The High Court also exercises appellate jurisdiction in civil cases that are determined by courts that are subordinate to it.
Except for civil appeals against decisions of the Magistrates’ Court, appeals against decisions of other tribunals only lie to the High Court where a statute specifically provides for
a right of appeal to that court.
The court also has powers to review proceedings of all inferior courts and tribunals.
Assessors assist judges in hearing evidence and deciding issues of fact.
In cases where they sit with judges, assessors have an equal say as the judge.
Where an even number of judges sit on appeal and the opinion of the judges is equally divided, the decision of the court is suspended until the opinion of a third Judge is obtained.
The decision of the majority becomes the decision of the court.
Assessors do not sit with judges during appeal hearings.
Although in civil cases, judges sit alone a judge retains the discretion to sit with an assessor or assessors to assist him/her.
In this regard the assessors act only in an advisory capacity and are not entitled to vote in the decision of the court.
Appointment of Assessors
Assessors are appointed from persons who either have experience in the administration of justice or experience or special skill in any matter, which may have to be considered, by the court.
An assessor may also be appointed on the basis that s/he has any other experience which in the opinion of the Chief Justice or the Judge President renders him/her suitable to act as an assessor.
A party to a trial is entitled to challenge the appointment of a particular assessor.
The Judicial Laws Amendment (Ease of Settling Commercial and other Disputes) Act, 2017 operationalised section 171 (3) of the Constitution which allows an Act of Parliament to provide for the division of the High Court into specialised divisions.
Currently, the High Court operates the Civil, the Criminal, the Family, the Electoral Court Divisions; the Fiscal Appeals Court, the Special Court for Income Tax Appeals, and the Intellectual Property Tribunal.
|HIGH COURT HARARE
Corner 3rd Street and Samora Machel Avenue
Box 870 Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe
Tel: +263 242 250 805/8 +263 242 250 765/84/85
HIGH COURT BULAWAYO
Cnr 8th Avenue and Herbert Chitepo Street
Tel: +263 292 888 096 / +263 292 61605
HIGH COURT MASVINGO
Cnr Robert Mugabe Street and Leopold Takawira Street
Box 326 Masvingo
Tel:+263 39 2262081 or +263 39 2262358
HIGH COURT MUTARE
10 Robert Mugabe Road
Box 93 Mutare
Tel: + 263 20 2061476 or +263 20 2061467