|The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) shall be convening a two-day training symposium for judges under the theme Guaranteeing Access to Justice in the context of COVID-19 and ensuring efficient and effective delivery of justice with particular reference to the role of Judges. The meeting will take place at the Trout Beck Inn, in Nyanga from 18 to 19 September 2020. In line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines and government directives amidst the COVID 19 Pandemic the meeting will convene 50 Judges drawn from around the country.
The advent and spread of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a global medical emergency. Its impact has gone beyond the health sector and has affected every facet of life. The virus has fundamentally altered the way the world functions, changing the entire global socio-political order, and adversely affecting the economies of most countries. The pandemic has resulted in major social, political, and legal challenges. To manage the impact of the disease, WHO has issued a set of guidelines for countries to follow, these include measures such as quarantine, self-isolation, repatriation of citizens, and preparedness at workplaces for essential services. The net result of these measures is that non-essential businesses and industries have closed to mitigate infection risk for employees and customers alike. This “new normal” has fundamentally altered how we understand and go about our lives, necessitating restrictions on the ability of people to move, gather and interact, and in so doing has adversely impacted the court’s capacity to operate. The effects of the COVID restrictions are not peculiar to Zimbabwe. Courts around the world have been forced to either close down completely, reduce or adjust their operations. Negatively impacting the court’s power to provide prompt justice and fair hearings. This has led to increased case-backlogs, longer pre-trial detention periods for accused persons, and has lengthened period taken to resolve judicial and administrative proceedings. The justice sector as a whole must find creative means, within the parameters set by the law to navigate the crisis and uncertainty it creates. Faced with these insurmountable challenges the judiciary must continue to demonstrate impartiality, independence, fairness, and a constant commitment to public exemplariness that reinforces security and confidence in the courts. In the reformulation of society to meet the challenges imposed by the pandemic, access to justice, and the rule of law cannot be afterthoughts. This invariably must mean the courts must continuously engage with the issues, collectively look to resolve emerging challenges and adapt.