HARARE – In a bid to decongest the Harare and the Mbare Magistrates’ Courts, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) is set to open a new court in Harare’s satellite town of Epworth at the end of February.
At the moment, people from Epworth have to travel to Harare or Chitungwiza to access court services.
Construction of the court building is now said to be complete with furniture said to be the last thing left before the court can open its doors to the public on February 24th.
The Epworth Magistrate Court will be manned by two magistrates dealing with both civil and criminal cases.
Speaking to journalists after a tour of the court, JSC Secretary Walter Chikwanha said the building of the courts was meant to decongest city centres.
“We are decentralising our courts to townships to decongest our city centres and at the same time, decongest the only court houses that we have in our city centres.
“For instance, in Harare, we have Harare Magistrates’ Court and Mbare only. So, we needed to embark on this project.
“So, this project is almost done. We are now working on the finishing touches.
“We are targeting that this court will be open in the last week of February,” he said.
Chikwanha said more courts would be built in other towns this year.
“We are finishing Epworth. We are starting another project, Cowdray Park in Bulawayo. We hope that by the 1st of March, the contractor will move on site.
“We are also hopeful to build a court in Mkoba, Gweru and we have now secured land there. We are also going to put a court in Highfield, Harare.
“We are looking at Bulawayo, Gweru, Harare and Mutare and we have engaged with the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works and Local Authorities for us to access land or dilapidated buildings which we will rehabilitate and turn them into courts,” he said.
Decentralisation of courts also helps reduce the distance travelled by people to access justice.
“We are taking courts to the people. Ordinarily, the population of Epworth and other surrounding areas are supposed to travel all the way to town for them to access the only available courts.
“Now they don’t need to look for money for transport because the court has been brought to their doorstep. So, decentralisation enhances access to justice,” he said.
A vendor, Simbarashe Nyabadza said currently, some residents of the sprawling town are sometimes forced to skip court after failing to raise transport fares to Mbare or Harare’s Rotton Row or Chitungwiza courts.
“Now there will be no excuse for missing court,” he said.
Another Epworth resident Silas Madziva said: “Now we do not have to travel all the way to Chitungwiza to support our relatives who will be appearing in court. We will just walk.”