The 2021 Southern African Chief Justices’ Forum (SACJF)
Victoria Falls Town, 24th September 2021 – His Excellency President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Comrade Dr. Emmerson D. Mnangagwa, this morning officiated at the 2021 Southern African Chief Justices’ forum (SACJF), under the theme “The Judiciary and Technology in Africa”. The conference co-hosted by the Republics of Zambia and Zimbabwe provides a platform for Chief Justices from East and Southern Africa to engage each other on enhancing administration of justice in the various jurisdictions.
In his opening remarks, President Mnangagwa lauded the organisers of the conference for holding the conference under a theme which could not have come at a more opportune time, considering the incessant waves of the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to ravage the globe. He noted that one of the effects of the pandemic was the disruption of court services. He added that “despite the pandemic the justice sector must always remain open to the public as it is an essential service that cannot be held in abeyance nor dispensed with”. He further said that “this should however not detract from the very important role played by the courts in the protection of fundamental human rights of the people, especially the poor and the vulnerable, such as the disabled, women and children”.
He advised that the use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) is a key strategic focus of the government of Zimbabwe, and that it underpins the economic blueprint of Vision 2030, in which Zimbabwe aims to have an upper middle class by the year 2030.
In giving the vote of thanks on behalf of the delegates, the Acting Chief Justice of Zambia Hon. Mr. Justice Michael Musonda, SC gave special thanks to the governments of Zimbabwe and Zambia for agreeing to co-host the AGM and Conference through their judiciaries.
He observed that the COVID-19 guidelines currently in force in Zambia have complemented the existing Court Rules to open up to the conduct of civil court proceedings via teleconferencing, videoconferencing and any other appropriate technology. He said “it is for this reason that I am extremely elated to see that the programme speaks to the issue of technology in our various judiciaries. We have an opportunity at this Conference to learn from one another on the best practices in the use of technology in the Judiciary”.
Justice Musonda noted that “amidst the backdrop of this rampaging pandemic, reliance on Information Communication Technology (ICT) has evolved from being an option to an absolute necessity in all spheres of our daily lives”. He urged the Judges to seriously consider the use of virtual hearings, video conferencing and e-justice including electronic case management among other digital interactive platforms which would enhance administration of justice.
He added that the COVID-19 pandemic should by no means be an excuse to downsize efforts that the Forum has put in place in achieving its set goals and objectives. On the contrary, it provides SACJF with more impetus to accelerate collective efforts and find solutions to problems even in the face of this catastrophic global pandemic.