The Judicial Service Commission (JSC), in its latest 2021 to 2025 Strategic Plan adopted a motion to digitalize the Zimbabwean Justice system through the introduction of the IECMS. The system will increase ranking of Zimbabwe in Doing Business report in the Enforcing Contract Indicator as IECMS will:
• cover all the technical items required for the scoring of the indicator
• Increase judicial accountability
• Improves access to justice for all
• Improves the quality of justice
• Enables automation of judicial systems
• Increase efficiency and effectiveness of the judiciary
The overall objective is to
• Implement a software (based solution for the management of the entire life cycle of every case be it civil or criminal). ( The electronic system will be deployed in all of the following: the Constitutional Court, Supreme Court, Commercial Court, High Court, Labour Court, Administrative Court, Magistrates Court and Sheriff of the High Court under one Case Management System called The Integrated Electronic Case management System (IECMS). The IECMS allows for controlled exchange of data among the integrated components of the judiciary hence the term integrated.
• The Integrated Electronic Case Management System (IECMS) shall be a unifying platform that will serve as a single point of entry for all Justice Sector institutions – Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP); National Prosecution Authority of Zimbabwe; Judiciary; Zimbabwe Correctional Services, Law Society of Zimbabwe and other stakeholders and other government institutions as deemed appropriate.
CHALLENGES CURRENTLY BEING FACED WITHOUT AN ELECTRONIC SYSTEM
• Failure to provide timely and effective service delivery because manual services always require a human hand and are limited only to working hours and working days.
• All court processes are currently limited to brick and mortar control as all papers and other simple processes depend on litigants and their representatives having to actually visit a court to file papers that is only working days and working hours and of course depending on the human resources workload handling and attending to people.
• The deficiency of real-time analysis and monitoring of performance leads to lack of evidence-based timely decision-making. Reports are manually processed using human intervention as and when time permits and these being prepared probably monthly. This short changes management and clients because at times an intervention is required in the shortest of times;
• In the Covid-19 era unnecessary visits to court to file papers, retrieve or attend to simple matters has become a necessary evil yet most of this is actually avoidable through an IECMS. The coronavirus pandemic makes the implementation and the delivery of the Integrated Electronics Case Management System (IECMS) even more urgent since the government and the Judiciary need to take measures in protecting the health and well-being of its judicial officers, staff and members of the public who use the courts.
AIM OF IMPLEMENTING THE SYSTEM
The JSC will deploy an IECMS that will:
• Streamline the business processes of all the courts of the JSC – the Constitutional Court, Supreme Court, and Commercial Court during Phase 1 and all the remaining courts (High Court, Labour Court, Administrative Court, Magistrates Court, and Sheriff of the High Court) during Phase 2.
• Bring the court to the door step of everyone through their computers, laptops, tablets and mobile phones enabling and capacitating litigants, lawyers etc. to electronically file cases, submit all case related information and track cases throughout the entire lifecycle without the need to visit the courts physically. This factor alone speaks to Covid-19 regulations as the government struggles to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 on the economy vis-a-vi new strains sprouting in different countries like South Africa, India etc.
• Assist all parties to have easy and ad-hoc access to the information required to process cases and implement day-to-day management of cases on client (user) side.
• Become a system for effectively managing the entire case lifecycle, resulting in significant time and cost savings and minimizing human intervention in case processing.
• Enable the full reproduction of cases along with the processing of information in the event of loss or physical damage of the file.
• Enable users to collect and manage consolidated information on case specific data, ensure effective case processing, including fee payments and overall court performance, and improve the transparency and accountability of judicial institutions.
• Manage case specific data, thereby enabling the monitoring of case activities, and supporting decision-making using real-time data and analytics.
• Strengthen the accessibility and integrity of the Zimbabwean justice system by enabling relevant parties to interface electronically with judicial bodies and services.
• Go paperless, with virtual court and electronic signatures reduce the amount of papers and physical copies thus having a virtual and fully electronic courts.
The following major categories of functionality will be implemented in the system:
This feature will enable all stakeholders and litigants who have cases at the courts, to file their documents online without physically visiting the court premises. Documents filed can either be
• A case initiating document
• Submissions etc.
Online payment of court fees
This allows litigants to pay for their court fees without visiting the accounts office through Ecocash, Telecash, and One money, Visa or Zimswitch.
This allows a litigant or their legal representative to track the progress with their case. Depending on who has logged the case, a prison officer filling on behalf of an inmate can also track the progress of that case or a prosecutor can track the progress of the case for an accused. The court staff will also be able to check for compliance on documents submitted online and in turn accept or reject a submission based on compliance.
Reports and Dashboards
The features allows court staff and stakeholders to generate reports quickly. Depending on the user rights in the system, a court supervisor can generate reports for their court.
Document Handling (Both incoming and outgoing)
This tool makes it easy for court staff to manage the exchange of documents between the court, litigant and legal practitioner.
Work Tasks Management
Tasks can be assigned to court staff and tracking of the progress on the task can be easily tracked in the system. This is a valuable tool for supervisors.
Communication and Messaging
The system provides a useful tool for communication with stakeholders and litigants. A litigant upon registration of a case has to provide their preferred choice for communications. The system has the following
All notifications from the system will be sent to the litigant through sms messages. Litigants to provide their phone numbers for Telecel, Econet and NetOne.
Notifications will be sent through email. Litigant to provide the primary and secondary email addresses
This option will be available even when a litigant choses emails or sms messages. Every time a user of the
IECMS logs into the system, notifications relating to them can be viewed in the system.
Virtual hearing allows defendant, charged in a police station or in prison to have hearing held over secure video link from the courts. The same equipment allows police witnesses to give evidence in court via the police station or nearest court, thereby freeing up time to carry out frontline duties rather than travelling to and from court.
Information sharing can be done using this feature in the system and will make communication faster and thereby increase efficiency at the courts.
The system has a calendar feature which enables users to view the scheduled hearings for their cases.