COURT WATCH 8/2020
[2nd June 2020]
High Court (Commercial Division) Rules, 2020 Gazetted and In Force
The High Court (Commercial Division) Rules, 2020, were gazetted in a Government Gazette Extraordinary dated Sunday 31st May 2020. They appear in Statutory Instrument 123 of 2020 which is available on the Veritas website [link]. They were enacted, in terms of section 56 of the High Court Act, by the Chief Justice with the approval of the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs..
Date of commencement and applicability to pending cases
The rules came into operation on Monday 1st June 2020, in terms of Rule 2. Rule 2 also states that the rules “shall have effect in relation to all proceedings of the Commercial Division of the High Court, including so far as is practicable proceedings pending “ on 1st June.
Values of the Commercial Division
Rule 4(3) provides the Commercial Division in administering the rules must have due regard to (1) the set of values set out in the Second Schedule to the rules and (2) the need to achieve substantial justice inter parties in any particular case without derogating from the principles of natural justice or established law and (3) resolving the dispute timeously. The statement of values in the Second Schedule is as follows:
The adjudication of disputes and operation of the Commercial Division of the High Court of Zimbabwe (hereafter referred to as “the Commercial Court”) shall be guided by the set of values listed below which however, are not part of the Rules of Court.
- The establishment of the Commercial Court in Zimbabwe is designed to improve the ease of doing business in line with the criteria set by the World Bank and contribute towards the national effort in attracting local and foreign direct investment.
- The core function of the Commercial Court is the expeditious resolution of commercial disputes according to international best practices to enhance efficient justice delivery.
- The core attributes of the Commercial Court are:
- reduction and simplification of processes;
- curtailment and minimisation of costs and time;
- full integration of electronic case management systems;
- complete digitalisation of records;
- across the board training;
- enhanced professionalism and increased efficiency; (
- new rules of procedure;
Application of the rules
Rule 4 provides that the rules will apply to commercial disputes brought before the “Commercial Division of the High Court”, a term shortened in the remainder of the rules to “court” or “Commercial Division”.
There is a lengthy definition of “commercial dispute” in Rule 3. The definition lists fourteen specific instances of such disputes and concludes with a catch-all fifteenth item including “any other dispute that the Judge-President may designate as a commercial dispute upon request by any of the parties to the dispute”.
Jurisdiction of the Commercial Division
The court will have both appellate jurisdiction [hearing appeals from subordinate courts and tribunals, for instance commercial magistrates courts] and original jurisdiction [hearing cases originating in the court itself].
Location of court registries
Initially, separate court registries will be kept at Harare, Bulawayo, Masvingo and Mutare, but the Chief Justice will be able to add to this list as other High Court stations are established.
The rules make provision for electronic service of summons and applications, electronic filing of documents in court registries, and virtual hearings.
Rule 57 sets an important deadline: On 1st June 2021 the court must become a fully paperless court and, except in exceptional circumstances authorised by the Judge President, must operate only as an electronic court.