12 December 2018

Zimbabwe: Commercial Courts - Zim Judges Lack Experience - Says Much Masunda

Zimbabwe's bench lacks the legal practice experience in a development that risks undermining ongoing efforts to establish commercial courts, a senior lawyer has warned.

The country, last year, set in motion the setting up of a special court which will handle all commercial disputes in line with efforts to improve the ease of doing business.

Currently the country has a huge backlog of commercial disputes which await resolve once the court is in place.

However, top Harare lawyer Muchadeyi Masunda expressed doubt over the availability of expertise locally for such specialised courts.

The former Harare mayor was speaking at a Securities and Exchange Commission of Zimbabwe (SECZ) stakeholder engagement this Tuesday.

"Most of the judges in the country have not really gone through the mill in legal practice hence the delivery of judgments is taking much longer due to lack of commercial experience," he said.

He urged the country to consider enlisting the services of retired judges with commercial law experience from other jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom and Australia.

This, he said, would go a long way in improving the dispute handling mechanism.

Masunda also lamented the fact that, even at the highest level of policy making, most officials lack the capacity to analyse and understand issues at hand.

"You would realise that even when the debate on Econet's registration took centre stage in the 1990s, the issues that were raised by policy makers like Joice Mujuru had nothing to do with the issues concerning the project, hence the need to find a mechanism to make such authorities to understand," he added.

In well-established jurisdictions, commercial courts decide business disputes under simplified procedures. They are designed to speed up the trials.

The concept was introduced in the late 20th century where the courts were set up to unclog the general dockets.

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