MASVNGO – The cost of justice has become exorbitant for the people of Gutu as Nyamandi, one of the chiefs in the area is charging villagers up to US$137 for him to hear cases.
The cost is higher than at the High Court where one pays US$10 to file an application and US$20 to do the same at the Constitutional Court.
Villagers who spoke to The Mirror described this as extortion and they appealed to the Minister of Justice, Legal and ParliamentaryAffairs, Ziyambi Ziyambi to intervene.
Asked for comment, Ziyambi said his Ministry gazettes fees for chiefs’ courts every year and urged the chiefs to comply with requirements.
The Mirror established that the current gazetted fees for chiefs’ courts is US$27.
Acting Chief Nyamandi, born Siyano Machaya exploded when The Mirror called him for a comment. He said what transpires at his court was none of the media’s business. Constitutional Court Judge, Justice Rita Makarau, however, expressed concern at the low coverage of traditional courts when she came to Masvingo to officially open the High Court for the 2024 Legal Year recently.
She said coverage of traditional courts is important for transparency and said the matter would be discussed at the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).
In the latest case, Machaya demanded US$137 each from Clever Tozoona of Kudzerema Village who had a land dispute with Simion Mukurumbira of the same Village.
Tozoona who won the case but is not happy with the chief’s exorbitant fees said he was going to demand back the money he was overcharged by the chief.
“I and Mukurumbira both paid US$137 to appear before him. I plan to approach the chief so that he gives me back part of the money,” said Tozoona.
“Who are you to ask me what I charge my subjects. What is the media’s interest in my court? I don’t answer to you,” said acting Chief Nyamandi before he hang up his phone.
Mukurumbira could not be reached for a comment by the time of going to Press. Impeccable sources, however, told The Mirror that Chief Nyamandi seized four goats belonging to Mukurumbira’s son after he failed to pay the US$137.
Nyamandi chieftainship elders who spoke to this publication said that the three immediate past chiefs maintained the same land boundary that the acting chief has reversed.
“The piece of land under contention was bought by Mukurumbira’s grandmother in the 1960’s. The first dispute was heard by the late Chief Nyamandi born Mushai Machaya in the 1970’s and he upheld the boundary line with markings. The second case was heard by the late chief born Mambayo Machaya sometime around 2015. The current acting chief’s late father, Kokerai Machaya also heard the same matter in 2017 before he died and upheld the same boundary.
“This acting chief has overstayed. The 24 chieftainship families chose Zvagara Masunda to be the substantive chief in 2021 and we are waiting on Government to complete the process,” said former Helen McGhie Primary head and chieftainship elder, Horuno Herbert Zengeya.
Provincial Chiefs Assembly Chairperson, Chief Chitanga of Mwenezi born Feleni Chauke said he is not in a position to comment.
“I will need to hear from the chief and the men who appeared before him before I comment. There might be some circumstances that forced the chief to do so. Our fees are gazetted by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC),” he said. – Masvingo Mirror