One of the interesting things I have often seen being suggested is the idea of an e-government in Zimbabwe. The idea behind this is to automate the operations of arms of government. This streamlines government services to ensure efficiency; much needed! This is made possible by making them electronic thus enabling real-time access. Given the digital age we now live in, as much as possible, such an approach needs to be implemented. Recently there was a launch of IECMS 3rd Phase in the General Division of the High Court and the Sheriff’s office. This effectively wraps up the automation of Zimbabwe’s superior courts; let us explore more.

What Is The IECMS?

IECMS stands for Integrated Electronic Case Management System. This refers to a web-based system that enables automation and real-time tracking of all elements of a court case’s life cycle. Integration here refers to the integration of the Constitutional Court, the Administrative Court, the Magistrate’s Court, and the Sheriff of the High Court. This means they will all now fall under one system.

This is an initiative that feeds into Zimbabwe’s National Development Strategy 1 spanning from 2021 to 2025. This is specifically with regard to digitizing the Zimbabwean economy. Implementation of the IECMS system carries many benefits; if rolled out well. The implementation of the IECMS on its inception had been projected to be completed within 3 to 5 years.

Phased Approach Used In Implementing The IECMS

Phase One: Phase 1 of the implementation of the IECMS focused on the Constitutional Court (ConCourt), Supreme Court, and the Commercial Division of the High Court

Phase Two: Phase 2 of the implementation of the IECMS focused on the High Court, Labour Court, Administrative Court, Magistrate’s Court, and Sheriff of the High Court of Zimbabwe.

Phase Three: Phase 3 of the implementation of the IECMS focused on the General Division of the High Court and the Sheriff’s office.

NB: The Judicial Service Commission of Zimbabwe highlighted that the next phase will be on connecting the magistrates’ courts.

What Using The IECMS Requires

At the most basic, you need an internet-enabled device i.e. a mobile smartphone or a PC. Then of course you will need to have an internet connection. To access and use the platform you need to have an email address and an electronic signature pad. Then you can be able to lodge your documents from anywhere. Initially you will be required to sign up on the IECMS so that you can have an account.

Some Interesting Sentiments From The Public

On the 1st of September 2023, the Judicial Service Commission of Zimbabwe tweeted the following:

“The launch of IECMS 3rd phase in the General Division of the High Court and Sheriff’s office today completes the automation of the country’s superior courts”

This tweet was met with some interesting comments. Some people cited that they could not access the platform despite having registered. Other cited that the IECMS was not alerting on or monitoring scenarios where judges sit on cases at the Labour Court in Harare. Someone even raised an important point by underscoring that an efficient justice delivery system is measured by quick rulings. This means that for the IECMS to be deemed effective there should be quicker rulings. The system should effectively flag any scenarios where cases are being sat on.

There were also other complaints on how ineffective, unnecessarily laborious, and cumbersome the platform is. Maybe it is too early to tell whether or not the IECMS is running smoothly or not. Some of the mentioned issues could just be teething troubles. Plus after all, internet connectivity has a bearing on the use of the platform. Of which we all know how problematic it is lately to have consistent data connections. Anyways, time will tell.

That is the latest development regarding the automation of courts in Zimbabwe. Frankly speaking, all of this is long overdue. There is a general unsettling sight that is replete in most government offices. As in, there still exists a predominant dependence of doing things manually. It is commonplace to see stacks upon stacks of physical paperwork or files. There are also still many processes that can only be done by one physically visiting certain offices. This is something that is not supposed to be in this day and age. Another important issue is that of public awareness. The Judicial Service Commission of Zimbabwe needs to do more in educating the public about the IECMS.