The civil procedure in the Magistrates Court of Zimbabwe: A denial of justice to self actors?
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This study investigates the challenges self actors, known in other jurisdiction as self representing litigants, when bringing their cases before the Magistrates Court or defending themselves in the Magistrates Court. In Zimbabwe the Magistrates Court is the only general court that has civil, customary and criminal jurisdiction that is situated in every province. It is the only formal court that is geographically accessible to self actors as after it is the superior court known as the High Court of Zimbabwe which is a court of first instance and appellate jurisdiction and is only situated in Harare and Bulawayo. There are not many self actors who approach this court because of very complex court procedures and geographical inaccessibility. Hence the Magistrates Court becomes the only formal legal channel through which all those self actors who thirst for justice bring up their cases or defend their rights. To realize their rights or protect the same the self actors would have to do it in the Magistrates Court. The majorities of self actors do not choose to be self actors but rather do it alone because they cannot afford the cost of hiring a legal practitioner. The majority of studies on access to justice focus largely on the provision of legal aid to self actors but in practice very few are able to access the legal aid and end up representing self. The question of whether the court procedure in the Magistrates Court provides the required access to justice to these self actors has not been interrogated despite the fact that access to justice is a fundamental human right and a right that unlocks all other rights. A self actor can only successfully bring his/her case before a court of law or defend herself/himself, if he or she understands how to navigate the civil procedure in the Magistrates Court. Thus it becomes pertinent to investigate and establish the problematic aspects of the civil procedure to self actors as well as recommend solutions that are capable of implementation in light of the socio-economic environment of Zimbabwe. The need to maintain a degree of formality within the courts that brings sanity and certainty to users (represented or not) must also be taken into account.
Additional Citation InformationMatsikidze, R. (2014). The civil procedure in magistrate courts of Zimbabwe: A denial of justice to self actors? (Unpublished Masters thesis), University of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe
University of Zimbabwe