Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku on Monday described the working conditions for Zimbabwe judges as embarrassing.
“It is not a secret that the conditions of service of judges and other judicial officers are embarrassingly low,” Chidyausiku said during the official opening of the 2011 legal year at the High Court which was attended by army, police and prison chiefs and other senior government officials.
The Chief Justice bemoaned the poor working conditions for magistrates and other judicial staffers who despite being transferred to the newly created Judicial Service Commission from the Public Service Commission have not realised a simultaneous improvement in their conditions of service.
“The members remained on the low levels of remuneration that treasury had budgeted for them as employment costs for that year,” said Chidyausiku.
The Chief Justice lamented the high number of criminal cases presided over by the High Court.
“The increase in the number of criminal trials comings to the High Court is a cause for concern as it tends to indicate that the levels of criminality in the country is rising instead of decreasing,” said Chidyausiku.
Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa has made public his concern for the Judges poor salaries. In 2009 Chinamasa together with Finance Minister Tendai Biti held a meeting with the country’s Judges where he undertook to improve the services of the country’s judiciary.
“The High Court was busy, with more cases having been filed during 2010 as compared to 2009. For example, 186 criminal trials were set down during 2010 as compared to 115 during 2009,” Chidyausiku said.
“The increase in the number of criminal trials coming to the High Court is a cause of concern as it tends to indicate that the levels of criminality in the country are rising instead of decreasing.”
Last year the Supreme Court received a total of 31 constitutional applications with 25 of the cases not ready for hearing while five were heard and one was withdrawn, Justice Chidyausiku said.
“About fifty percent of the constitutional applications filed in the Supreme Court, were referrals from the magistrates’ courts across the country wherein white farmers mainly are resisting their eviction from gazetted farm land,” Justice Chidyausiku said.