By DELPHINE ZULU –
THE Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs has called for urgent rehabilitation of the Lusaka Magistrate complex due to the extent of dilapidation.
Committee chairperson Jack Mwiimbu said after touring the complex yesterday, that there was need to urgently rehabilitate the ultra modern court complex.
Mr Mwiimbu, who is United Party for National Development (UPND) Member of Parliament for Monze Central said the rehabilitation works should also include the holding cells housed within the facility.
“We have toured the complex and must say the entire building is in a bad shape as the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs, we recommend that urgent rehabilitation works of the entire building, magistrates’ chambers, and court rooms and holding cells, should be embarked on,” he said.
And Chief resident magistrate Joshua Banda described the state of the complex as a ‘time bomb’ saying it could collapse at any point.
“There is need for urgent rehabilitation of the building, it is slowly getting dilapidated and must not wait any longer as it can become costly once the delay is prolonged, there is also need to start
constructing the extension of the same as there is a shortage of offices and courtrooms,” he said.
Mr Banda had also submitted the need to have more magistrates recruited, to increase the number from the current 19 due to the number of cases which had increased from 3,402 in 2011, 3,658 in 2012 and 3,948 in 2013 with defilement cases topping the list.
He also recommended that magistrates should be given powers to pass sentences on defilers unlike the current situation where they refer such cases to the High Court for sentencing.
In terms of filing and record keeping, Mr Banda said the system had been made transparent with the introduction of lockable cabinets which had reduced incidences of files missing.
He said three employees had been reported to the police for missing files especially where corruption had been suspected.
Principle resident magistrate Aridah Chuulu said senior magistrates’ jurisdiction should be increased to 15 years from the current nine, to allow quick disposal of cases and avoid congestion in prisons as convicts were kept until sentence was passed.
Ms Chuulu said there was need to construct gender based and juvenile courtrooms as was the case in Nakonde to allow for privacy and avoid contact between juvenile offenders and other criminals.
She said it would be prudent if the Gender Based Violence Act and Penal Code were harmonised to carter for remedies for victims as it only ended at spelling out punishments for the perpetrators without specifying the exact offence.
“Many cases that we handle come through the police and ours is to pass judgment, once found guilty, the remedy must be done by others including government because this is not even provided for in the Penal Code,” she said.
They said as it was the GBV Act was not a remedy to reduce cases of such nature until the harmonization process had been concluded.
Other magistrates recommended that researchers should be recruited to help with research materials before judgment was passed to avoid them spending too much time on writing judgments and quicken the disposal process.