CHIEF Justice Ireen Mambilima has thanked President Edgar Lungu and the Patriotic Front (PF) Government for supporting and protecting the judiciary.
Ms Justice Mambilima said the judiciary was grateful to President Lungu and the PF Government for the steady and tireless support as well as protection.
She said her office had been concerned with delays in disposing of cases but she was glad to state that a number of interventions had been put in place such as the appointment of more judges and the establishment of more courts especially the specialised Divisions of the High Court and fast track courts.
Ms Justice Mabilima said this in Livingstone yesterday in a speech read for her by Judge Flugence Chisanga during the inaugural opening of the 2016 Sessions of the Industrial Relations Division of the High Court for Southern Province.
The Industrial Relations Court, which is now a Division of the High Court under the Amended Constitution of Zambia, has been launched in Livingstone to handle industrial and other labour related cases in Southern Province.
This means that the people in Southern Province will no longer be required to go to Lusaka for industrial and labour related matter.
The first circuit commenced in Livingstone yesterday on April 4, 2016 and the last one would commence on November 7, 2016 while each circuit session will be for a period of at least two weeks.
Ms Justice Mambilima said the first session in Livingstone symbolised the continued resolve in the implementation of the reforms in the judiciary.
She urged the judges for the Industrial Relations Court to rise to the occasion and ensure to dispose of the cases expeditiously despite of many challenges affecting the smooth operations of the judiciary.
“I have no doubt that the Industrial relations Division of the High Court will have a lot of cases to hear and determine in Southern Province.
“I say so in light of the fact that in the last three years, that is, from 2013 to 2015; out of the total number of 1, 806 labour disputes that were handled by the office of the senior labour officer, a total number of 740 cases were referred to the courts of law,” Ms Justice Mambilima said.
She said access to justice was one of the fundamental human rights which the judiciary was determined to uphold.
“We are all aware that Livingstone where the launch for the Industrial Relations Division is being done today is the hub of tourism in Zambia.
“As such, it has attracted considerable investment in the tourism and hospitality industry. Unfortunately, most of these disputes are not resolved by the parties ex-curia but are brought before the courts of law,” Ms Justice Mambilima said.
Ms Justice Mambilima also announced that plans were underway to construct a court building complex in Choma which would accommodate the High Court, Subordinate Courts and the Small Claims Court.
Speaking at the same meeting, Industrial Relations Court judge in charge Martin Musaluke said the achievement of bringing justice closer to the people in Southern Province would only be met if all stakeholders come together.
Mr Justice Musaluke said there was need for employers, employees, trade unions and the media in Southern province to come together and inform the public about the milestone of the opening of the Industrial Relations Division of the High Court in Livingstone.
“All labour and industrial relations cases in the province can now be filed and heard in Livingstone.
“With improved infrastructure and adequate funding, resident judge could be stationed here in Livingstone to exclusively deal with labour and industrial relations cases,” Mr Justice Musaluke said.
Southern Province Minister Nathaniel Mubukwanu said the presence of the Industrial Relations Court in the province would result in quick disposal of cases, reduction in the cost of litigation and access to justice by more people.
Mr Mubukwanu also said the Government had bought a light track for the judiciary to mitigate transport challenges.