The committee appointed to come up with rules of the Commercial Court has handed its draft to Chief Justice Luke Malaba. According to state-owned newspaper, The Herald, these and other reforms are being done under the Ease of Doing Business programme which is supported by the World Bank.

The Commercial Court is a division of the High Court of Zimbabwe and its establishment is in line with the Commercial Court Act which seeks to timeously resolve all commercial disputes in an effective manner. The establishment of the court falls under the “Enforcing Contracts and Resolving Insolvency” thematic working group which the Judicial Services Commission Deputy Secretary Sitembinkosi Msipa chairs. Apart from the Commercial Court Act, the group was also tasked to work on other Acts like the High Court Act, Banking Act, Estate Administrators Act and the Small Claims Act among other pieces of legislation.

Committee composition

The committee was appointed in January this year and is chaired by Masvingo High Court Judge Justice Joseph Mafusire. Other committee members are Mr Edwin Dube of Dube Manikai and Hwacha, Mr Tinoziva Bere of Bere Brothers, Mr Addington Chinake of Kantor and Immerman, Mr Sitembinkosi Msipa as well as the Registrar of the Masvingo High Court, Mrs Renika Dzikiti.

Draft rules

The draft rules essentially overhaul the urgent chamber application procedure. They also provide for the completion of commercial disputes within 10 months. Speaking after receiving the draft rules, Chief Justice Luke Malaba expressed satisfaction that the work had been completed earlier than expected. He further tasked the same committee to work on Magistrate’s Commercial Court Rules. Magistrate’s Commercial Courts opened their doors on 1st March 2019 and the launch of the High Court’s Commercial Court is expected soon. Renovations on the identified building in Harare are already underway.

Ease of doing business

Zimbabwe’s thrust to become a middle-income economy by 2030 is constantly hampered by the difficult business environment that prevails in the country. Zimbabwe currently ranks 155th out of 190 countries on the Ease of Doing Business index. Although this is a slight improvement from the 159th achieved in 2018, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done for us to move closer to our African counterparts like Rwanda who are ranked 41st. One of the areas where we performed dismally as a country is on enforcing contracts where we ranked 168th out of 190. However, the report notes that Zimbabwe made enforcing contracts easier by making judgements in commercial cases available to the public online. This is a positive step which needs to be followed up by more reforms in starting a business, trading across borders, dealing with construction permits, paying taxes, registering property and others.

The judicial system has its work cut out but other sectors of the economy also need to do their part to ensure we improve our ease of doing business. It may take some time but we will get there if current momentum is maintained.