The newly built Epworth Magistrates Court in Zimbabwe will officially open its doors on February 24, according to Judicial Service Commission Secretary Walter Chikwanha. After conducting a tour of the complex with senior managers from the commission, Chikwanha reported that the majority of construction and renovation work has been completed, including the installation of electricity, tiling and painting, with landscaping expected to be finished in the coming days.

The main building of the Epworth complex will house two courtrooms for two magistrates courts, as well as eight offices and ablution facilities. Since the court will handle criminal cases, holding cells have been constructed to meet Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services specifications, with separate sections for men, women and juveniles.

The construction of magistrates courts in suburbs is in line with the government’s plans to build several courts in the next coming months and years. The next magistrate’s court to be built will be the Cowdray Park Magistrates Court in Bulawayo, followed by others in Mukoba, Highfield, Gweru, and Mutare. The commission is working with the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works and local authorities to secure land for these projects.

Epworth residents welcomed the opening of the new court, stating that it would be more convenient and cost-effective to have access to justice in their own community. 70-year-old Mrs Paida Mhanzi said, “Courts coming close to us is a great initiative. Now, if there are criminals in the area we know for certain justice will be served. It was a challenge to travel to courts elsewhere, especially for people of my age and we ended up losing cases.”

Another resident, Mr Temba Marere, commented that “we are happy that we now have been saved from travelling expenses to Harare city centre. Now we know everything is being done under one roof, we know we are quick to get help.” Mrs Merjury Muzenda noted that the establishment of the court would be particularly beneficial for women, who may have previously suffered in silence and not reported cases of abuse due to the lack of resources and distance to attend court.

The Zimbabwean government has been working on a plan to turn Epworth into a town. Other plans include the giving of people in Epworth title deeds. Currently, Epworth is run by the Epworth Local Board which falls under the management of the Harare City Council although the Board has quite a bit of autonomy.