Zimbabwe's Chief High Court Justice George Chiweshe on Monday urged members of the judiciary to keep themselves clear of corruption, warning that offenders face expulsion under a new code of conduct launched last month.
Observers said the code is a welcome means to discipline judges and prosecutors, some of whom have been criticized for apparent bias in their handling of political cases involving members of the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
Opening the 2012 legal year in Bulawayo, Justice Chiweshe said judges were “subject to a higher degree of accountability and transparency,” and urged them to dispense justice in a manner that does not raise doubts about their integrity.
Advocate Lucas Nkomo commented that while lawyers were not consulted in the drafting of the code of ethics, it is a useful tool to stem corruption.
In Harare, Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba said a rise in cases in Harare High Court was straining judicial capacity with dockets increasing by a third over the past year.
Cases rose to 12,700 in 2011 from 9,500 in 2010, severely burdening judges.
The surge in cases, Malaba added, also indicated people are now willing to seek redress of violations of their personal and legal rights in the courts.
But he said he was disappointed at the slow pace at which the courts were dealing with cases. He said data showed not much time was spent hearing and deciding cases.
For example, Malaba said that of 1,145 divorces set down for hearing only 356 were completed during the past year while another 590 were postponed.
On the other hand, Malaba commended Bulawayo High Court judges for their rate of disposal of cases despite an increase in the number of cases brought.
Commenting on the backlog, political analyst Charles Mutasa told VOA reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that he hopes to see the courts clearing all cases to ensure that the constitutional rights of those held under accusation are protected.