Harare (New Ziana) – The country’s judicial authorities on Wednesday suspended most court operations as a precaution against surging Covid-19 pandemic.
The government tightened the country’s Covid-19 national lockdown to level 4 from Tuesday in response to the pandemic’s raging second wave in which new infections have increased substantially.
The new lockdown, in which most businesses, travel and social activities have been banned, will last for a month.
Reacting to the pandemic’s surge, Chief Justice Luke Malaba directed the suspension of most court operations nationwide with immediate effect.
According to the Practice Direction 1 of 2021, issued by Chief Justice of Zimbabwe Justice Luke Malaba dated January 4, the Practice Direction shall remain in effect until the expiry of the lockdown period, “unless earlier extended or revoked”.
The directive applies to the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, the High Court, the Labour Court, the Administrative Court and the Magistrates’ Court in Zimbabwe.
“While Courts will remain open for the duration of the lockdown period, they are constrained to function normally due to restrictions imposed by Statutory Instrument 10 of 2021; emergencies presented by the pandemic; and the need to save lives.
“In light of these current exigent circumstances, courts will therefore provide limited services,” said Chief Justice Malaba.
“All pending criminal cases on remand shall by virtue of the practice direction, be rolled over for a period of at least (thirty) 30 days.”
Accordingly, the filing of new cases, process, documents, pleadings and papers shall be suspended for a period of 30 days up to 3 February 2021, “unless the period is earlier extended or revoked”.
The limited services that will be provided by the courts are initial remands; urgent processes and applications; and bail applications.
According to the practice direction, all summons, subpoenas and warnings in court issued directing accused persons and or witnesses to appear in court between 5 January 2021 and 3 February 2021 are cancelled and shall be reissued after the expiry of the lockdown period.
“Where an offender is required to perform community service at an institution which is closed for the duration of the lockdown period, the performance of community service shall be suspended and shall resume on the first business day following the last day of the lockdown period,” said Chief Justice Malaba.
Entry into court premises/courthouses/courtrooms shall be limited to litigants, their legal practitioners, necessary witnesses and identified members of the press and shall not be permitted to members of the public who have no business at court.