Dispute resolution is a crucial aspect of any economy as it helps to maintain stability and ensure that businesses and individuals can operate with confidence. Investors often consider the efficiency of the legal system and the time it takes to resolve disputes before making investment decisions.
A well-functioning legal system that provides timely and fair resolution of disputes can attract more investment and promote economic growth.
At a personal level, disputes can arise in various situations, such as when you are owed money or when there is a disagreement with a business partner or neighbour and the monies involved are very substantial.
In such cases, it is important to have access to a legal system that can provide a quick and effective resolution.
The Small Claims Court is a great option for individuals who need to resolve disputes involving small amounts of money.
This court is designed to provide a simplified and cost-effective process for resolving disputes, without the need for expensive legal representation.
This week we shall look at the Small Claims Court and how businesses can fully utilise this court to achieve its goals.
The Small Claims Court is established by the Small Claims Court Act, as outlined in Section 3 of the Act.
This section mandates that every Magistrates Court within its area of jurisdiction shall also function as a small claims court.
Additionally, the Minister (of Justice) has the power to establish a small claims court for any province through a statutory instrument.
When the Minister establishes a Small Claims Court, they are required to specify the places within the province where the court may sit, also through a statutory instrument. This ensures that the Small Claims Court is accessible to all individuals within the province, regardless of their location.
The Small Claims Court is designed to provide a simplified and cost-effective process for resolving disputes involving small amounts of money.
It operates under a set of rules that are less formal than those of a regular court, allowing individuals to represent themselves without the need for expensive legal representation.
Small Claims Courts have been designated in several provinces, namely Harare, Manicaland, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West, Masvingo, Midland’s, Matabeleland North and South provinces as per SI 34 of 2016, titled Small Claims Courts (Designation) Notice,with their locale in corresponding cities in each province that is in Harare, Mutare, Bindura, Marondera, Chinhoyi, Bulawayo, Gwanda, Masvingo and Gweru.
Jurisdiction of Small Claims Courts
Court jurisdiction refers to the legal authority of a court to hear and decide a particular case. It is the power of a court to exercise its judicial functions over a particular geographic area or subject matter.
Geographic or Territorial jurisdiction refers to the court’s authority over a particular geographic area, such as a province. For example, a court may have jurisdiction over cases that arise within the boundaries of that province.
Subject matter jurisdiction refers to the court’s authority over a particular type of case or subject matter.
For example, example a Small Claims Court has no jurisdiction to deal with matters that are supposed to be dealt with by the Children’s Court or Maintenance Court even though all these are Magistrates Court seating as those designated courts.
In order for a court to hear and decide a case, it must have both geographic, subject matter and monetary jurisdiction over the case.
The Small Claims Court in Zimbabwe is a civil court with no judicial powers to hear criminal cases. It’s civil jurisdiction is further defined in Sections 9-12 of the Small Claims Court Act.
Section 9 of the Small Claims Court Act outlines the territorial jurisdiction of the court. The Small Claims Court has a general territorial jurisdiction, which means that it has the power to hear cases within the geographic boundaries of the province where it is designated.
This means that the court can only exercise its powers of jurisdiction within the province and cannot hear cases outside of its designated area.
The monetary jurisdiction of the small claims court is currently US$ 5 000. This is in terms of the Small Claims Courts (Jurisdiction) Notice SI 43 of 2023. The monetary limit may be calculated using the prevailing interbank rate.
There are several businesses that can benefit from this monetary jurisdiction. Registered Microfinance Institutions can use this Court to recover its various amounts from customers. Stores that give out goods on credit as well can use this to recover its dues expeditiously from debtors.
Small Claims Courts Civil Jurisdiction Limitations.
According to Section 12 of the Small Claims Act, no case involving a claim based on customary law, a request for divorce, custody, or maintenance, a dispute over the legality or interpretation of a will, a claim for damages for defamation, wrongful imprisonment or arrest due to malicious prosecution, adultery, seduction, or breaking a promise to marry, or a request for an interdict may be brought before the Small Claims Court.
LEGAL DISCLAIMER: The material contained in this post is set out in good faith for general guidance in the spirit of raising legal awareness on topical interests that affect most people on a daily basis. They are not meant to create an attorney-client relationship or constitute solicitation. No liability can be accepted for loss or expense incurred as a result of relying in particular circumstances on statements made in the post. Laws and regulations are complex and liable to change, and readers should check the current position with the relevant authorities before making personal arrangements.
Arthur Marara is a practising Attorney. Bestselling Author. Human Capital Trainer. Business Speaker. Thought Leader. Law Lecturer. Consultant. Coach. Legal Proctor (UZ). He has vast experience in employment law and has worked with several corporates, and organisations. He is also a notary public and conveyancer. He is passionate about promoting legal awareness and access to justice. He writes in his personal capacity. You can follow him on social media (Facebook Attorney Arthur Marara), or WhatsApp him on +263780055152 or email [email protected].