Commercial Court to ease business

Albert Chavhunduka/ Business

Business has welcomed the newly commissioned Commercial Court which has been seen as a thrust to modernise and enhance the ease of doing business and transform the business environment which is critical for foreign direct investments into the country.

Zimbabwe recently introduced virtual trials and court hearings as a way of cutting the country’s huge case backlog, which had accumulated as a result of the postponement of some cases due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The commercial court was established to deal with all disputes of all commercial nature which have all be relegated to be under the purview of this newly-established division of the High Court.

This is part of the Second Republic’s efforts to revamp the country’s judiciary and drive the ease of doing business reforms under President Emerson Mnangagwa.

United Refineries Limited CEO Busisa Moyo commended the commissioning of the commercial court by government and said the move is highly likely to be viewed favourably by investors and attract more foreign direct investments to Zimbabwe.

“The right to timeous legal address is critical for investors. The commissioning of a Commercial Court is likely to be viewed favourably by the investor community as may result in legal matters dealt with and set down much quicker. The fact that there is an electronic-virtual component for loading matters is in line with the thrust to modernize and improve the ease of doing business,” said Moyo.

Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) CEO Christopher Mugaga said the establishment of a Commercial Court for the settlement of litigation matters of commercial nature is very plausible and a good move by government.

“As part of the ease of doing business in Zimbabwe, we see it as a commendable move as you know, under the ease of doing business pillars, there are some pillars which have a legal bias which includes registering a company and settling commercial disputes, which then are supposed to be settled by the commercial court as we know,” he said.

Mugaga added that as much the this is plausible, it was however certainly not sufficient enough and called on government to ensure that the Commercial Court conducted its duty freely and independently without compromise.

“The focus is not only on opening courts or doing things like opening institutions but is to allow those institutions to operate freely and independently. Thus what then makes ease of doing business much commendable. So yes it’s very necessary to have a commercial court like we have witnessed but it’s sufficient to allow it to carry its duty without compromise or the court itself without being corrupt,” said Mugaga.

“I think you know what I’m talking about given the history of some of our arms of the Judicial Service Commission or even justice and how corruption somehow compromise on the delivery of justice itself. I’m quite very excited that we are moving in the right direction given the backlog of commercial cases which have been in our courts especially owing that the alternative dispute resolution system had been quite ineffective and not pronounced in our system. So hopefully, the commercial court will make it much easier to settle a lot of litigation issues.”

Business mogul and Banker Nigel Chanakira said the establishment of a Commercial Court in the country was long overdue and it is certainly going to make Zimbabwe attractive as an investment destination and also benefit the local business fraternity.

He added that the economic rewards of having an efficient Commercial Judicial system are usually large because the opportunity costs in terms of a business person being prejudiced is normally quite laborious.

“Our court systems in terms of commercial cases were taking too long in the courts, in other words, they lined up just like any other matters civil, criminal and commercial and there was no preferential allotment. I personally had a case which was in the courts for 11 years and the prejudice and commercial loss is tremendous,” said Chanakira.

“At law, whether it’s a criminal or civil matter, justice delayed is justice denied and it becomes even more frustrating for an investor to say okay do they have courts that work? Can I appeal if I feel an injustice is present, can I sue? We concluded and recommended at the time that we needed a Commercial Judicial system that was separate and this is precisely what they have done now.

“If you we got a Commercial Court like they have now, it means you now can speed up commercial matters and channel all commercial matters to one court. It is now important to assign Judges to this Court who have a commercial background, judges who have an appreciation of commerce and industry which will fast-track any commercial disputes.”

Economist Vince Musewe said government made a positive move by establishing a Commercial Court and what was left to do is to ensure that they equip it with forensic and tax experts who will be able to clear the current backlog of commercial cases.

“If you go to the courts you’ll find out that there is a lot of commercial cases that have been going on forever and they are never resolved because sometimes we didn’t have the expertiseThis obviously makes business much better now because if you have a dispute, you’ll know it will get resolved quickly which is good for local business generally not only for FDIs which however follow a successful local business sector. We also need to build the capacity of forensic people, tax experts and lawyers so that they can resolve a lot of outstanding commercial cases,” said Musewe.

The Commercial Court becomes another addition to the already existing specialised units of the High Court, which include the Electoral Court, Fiscal Appeal Court, Special Court for Income Tax appeals, the Intellectual Property Tribunal and the Civil and Family law division.

It shall have its registries in the country’s major towns which include Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare and Masvingo.

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