Magistrates Court Act
- Commenced on 1 January 1932
- [This is the version of this document from 23 June 2017 and includes any amendments published up to 31 December 2017.]
- [Note: This version of the Act was revised and consolidated by the Law Development Commission of Zimbabwe]
- [Amended by Judicial Laws Amendment (Ease of Settling Commercial and Other Disputes) Act, 2017 (Act 7 of 2017) on 23 June 2017]
Part I – Preliminary
1. Short titleThis Act may be cited as the Magistrates Court Act [Chapter 7:10].
2. InterpretationIn this Act—“business” includes a trade, profession, vocation, occupation and venture, and an isolated transaction of a business character, but does not include employment;[definition of "business" inserted by section 6 of Act 7 of 2017]“clerk of the court” includes any official carrying out the duties of such clerk on the instruction of the magistrate;“commercial court” means a magistrates court before which a commercial dispute is brought;[definition of "commercial court" inserted by section 6 of Act 7 of 2017]“commercial dispute” means a dispute of a civil nature arising out of a transaction in the course of business, including but not limited to—(a)the formation, management, transfer or dissolution of a business entity;(b)the contractual relationship of a business entity with another such entity or with another person or persons undertaken in the course of business;(c)the contractual or delictual liability of a business or of a person engaged in a business that arises in the course of business activities;(d)disputes primarily involving banking and financial services;(e)the restructuring or payment of business debts;(f)the enforcement of an arbitral award of a business character;[definition of "commercial dispute" inserted by section 6 of Act 7 of 2017]“court” means a court of a magistrate;“judgment”, in relation to civil cases, includes a sentence, decree, order or rule;“magistrate” means any person who has been appointed to hold magisterial office in terms of this Act;“messenger” includes a deputy messenger;“Minister” means the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs or any other Minister to whom the President may, from time to time, assign the administration of this Act;“periodical court” means a court of a magistrate sitting at some place, other than the ordinary stated place of holding of the court, appointed for the periodical holding of such court;“province” means a province created in terms of section three;“regional division” means a regional division created in terms of section four;“registrar” means registrar of the High Court;“rules” means rules made in terms of section seventy-three.
3. Regional divisions and provincesThe President may, by statutory instrument—
4. Regional and provincial courts
5. Nature of courts and proceedings
6. Magistrate to preside over courtEvery court shall be presided over by a magistrate.
7. Appointment of magistrates
8. Powers and jurisdiction of magistrates
9. OathA magistrate on appointment in terms of subsection (1) of section seven shall, before exercising any of the functions of his office, in open court take the following oath—“I, A.B., do promise and swear that I will faithfully, impartially and diligently execute to the best of my abilities the duties of the office of magistrate. So help me God.”
Part II – Civil
10. Messengers of court
11. Jurisdiction in civil cases
12. Arrests and interdicts
13. Attachment to found or confirm jurisdictionA court may order attachment of person or property to found or confirm jurisdiction against any person who does not reside in Zimbabwe in respect of an action within its jurisdiction where the claim or the value of the matter in dispute amounts to such amount as may be prescribed in rules, exclusive of any costs in respect of the recovery thereof, and may grant an order allowing service of any process in such action to be effected in such manner as may be stated in such order.
14. When court has no jurisdiction
15. Counterclaim exceeding jurisdiction
16. AssessorsIn any action the court may, with the approval of the Minister, summon to its assistance to act as assessors, in an advisory capacity, one or more persons who are willing so to do and who have skill and experience in any matter which may have to be considered in the action.
17. Change of place of hearing
18. JudgmentsThe court may, as the result of the trial of an action grant—
19. Costs caused by default of witnessThe court may order the costs of any postponement or adjournment occasioned by the default of a witness or any portion of such costs to be paid out of any fine imposed upon such witness.
20. Writs of execution
21. Report by officer charged with execution of writAn officer charged with the execution of any writ in terms of section twenty shall once a month, calculated from the date of issue of such writ, and oftener if thereto required by the magistrate, report to the clerk of the court by endorsement on such writ what he has done thereon and shall send a copy of such endorsement to the judgment creditor, his legal practitioner or agent.
22. Messenger’s powers
23. Force of process
24. Return of messenger, deputy messenger, etc.The return of a messenger, a deputy messenger or a police officer referred to in sub-section (5) of section ten as to what has been done upon any process issued out of any court shall be prima facie evidence of the matters stated therein.
25. What property may not be attachedIn respect of any process of execution issued against any person out of any court, the following property shall be protected from seizure and shall not be attached or sold—
26. Summons for civil imprisonment
27. Decree of civil imprisonmentThe court may, upon the return of the summons and whether the judgment debtor appears or not, make a decree of civil imprisonment against such judgment debtor and authorize the issue of a warrant for his arrest and detention in any prison named in such warrant:Provided that—
28. Costs in proceedings for civil imprisonment
29. Superannuation of decrees of civil imprisonmentThe period of superannuation of a decree of civil imprisonment shall be two years and shall run from the date of the last payment made thereunder or, if no payment has been made thereunder, from the date of the decree, but it may be revived in the same manner as a judgment.
30. Warrant of imprisonmentWhen any court makes a decree of civil imprisonment against any defendant, the process for the execution of the same shall be by warrant which shall in substance be in the form prescribed in rules.
31. Period of imprisonment and effect of liberationNo judgment debtor shall be detained in prison under any such warrant as aforesaid in any case in which the debt and costs mentioned in such warrant together amount to less than ten dollars for any period longer than one month, nor in any case whatsoever for any period longer than three months; and no judgment debtor once discharged, except when discharged under an order of court suspending imprisonment, shall ever be again arrested for the same debt or cause of action:Provided that—
32. Imprisonment and maintenance during imprisonmentThe officer in charge of whatever prison is in any such warrant mentioned and referred to shall receive into his custody and retain therein according to the tenor of such warrant the person against whom the same has been sued out:Provided that—
33. Garnishee orders
34. Order of attachment of property in security of rent
35. Proceedings for recovery of possession of house upon return of nulla bonain action for rentWhen a judgment of any court has been obtained for the amount of any rent of any house, land or premises, and it appears by the messenger’s return that no movable property has been found with which to satisfy the judgment, it shall be lawful for the plaintiff to serve upon the defendant a notice in writing informing him that application will be made to that court for an order directing him to deliver possession of the house, land or premises in respect of which the rent is due:Provided that no claim or demand for the delivery of possession as aforesaid shall be entertained in any case in which the lease or the term thereof yet to come and unexpired is of a value which is above the jurisdiction of the court.
36. Decree of delivery of possession and its effects
37. Court in certain cases may, in action for rent, decree delivery of possessionIf it is made to appear to any court at the time of the hearing of any action brought for the recovery of any rent referred to in section thirty-five, either by the admission of the defendant or otherwise, and whether such defendant personally appears at any such hearing or not, that there is not sufficient property to satisfy any process of execution in respect of such rent, the court may then, and without the issue of any such process or any fresh summons, direct the defendant to deliver possession as aforesaid in like manner as if he had been duly served with a notice in manner and form as provided in section thirty-five.
38. When summons operates as interdict
39. Rescission and alteration of judgment
41. Abandonment of whole or part of judgment appealed againstThe following provisions shall apply in civil cases where an appeal has been noted, except in defamation or seduction cases—
42. AgentsNo person shall be admitted or enrolled as an agent in any court.
44. Curator ad litem, appointment ofThe court may appoint a curator ad litem to any party to any proceedings in such court where such appointment is permitted or required by law.
44A. Electronic sittings of court
Part III – Interrogatories neighbouring states
45. Examination by interrogatoriesWhen any witness in any civil case brought in any magistrates court in any neighbouring state to which this Part applies, resides or is in Zimbabwe and it is certified to the magistrate of the regional division or province in which the witness resides or is, by the magistrate of the court in the neighbouring state that the evidence of the witness is required in that civil case in such court and that interrogatories to be put to the witness have been duly framed and approved under the laws as to interrogatories in force in such state, it shall be the duty of the magistrate of the regional division or province in which the witness resides or is, upon the receipt of the interrogatories together with the reasonable expenses of the witness in accordance with the tariff in force in the court to which he is subpoenaed—
46. Manner of summoning and penalty for non-attendanceEvery witness summoned by a magistrate in terms of section forty-five to appear to answer any interrogatories referred to in that section shall be summoned in like manner and be liable to the like penalties in case of non-attendance as if the summons were a summons to give evidence in the court of the magistrate.
47. Reciprocal provision for cases pending in ZimbabweIf at any time provision is made by law in any neighbouring state to which this Part applies for taking, by means of interrogatories, the evidence of witnesses who reside or are in that state and whose evidence is required in any civil case pending in any magistrates court in Zimbabwe, such evidence, certified as correct by the officer proper for the purpose, shall be received as evidence in such case, subject to all lawful exceptions.
48. When this part takes effectThis Part shall take effect so far as concerns any neighbouring state as soon as the President, by statutory instrument, declares that that state has made due provision for taking, by interrogatories, the evidence of witnesses who reside or are in that state and whose evidence is required in civil cases in the courts of magistrates in Zimbabwe, and for the transmission of such evidence to such magistrates.
Part IV – Criminal
49. Jurisdiction in criminal cases
50. Ordinary jurisdiction as to punishment
51. Special jurisdiction as to punishment
52. Magistrate may be assisted by assessors
53. Incapacity of assessor
54. Stopping and conversion of trials
55. Imposition or bringing into operation of sentences suspended by High Court
56. Local limits of jurisdiction
58. Scrutiny of certain cases not falling within section 57 (1)
59. Accused’s right to submit statement on reviewIn any criminal case which is subject to review in terms of section fifty-seven the accused person may, if he thinks the sentence passed upon him is excessive, deliver to the clerk of the court within three days after the date of such sentence any written statement of arguments setting out the grounds or reasons upon which he considers such sentence excessive, which statement or arguments shall be forwarded with the proceedings of the case to the reviewing judge and shall be taken into account in the review of the proceedings.
60. Appeal from magistrates courts in criminal cases
61. Prosecutor-general may appeal to High Court on point of law or against acquittalIf the Prosecutor-General is dissatisfied with the judgment of a court in a criminal matter—
62. Prosecutor-General may appeal to High Court against sentence
63. Execution of sentence of imprisonment, fine or community service not suspended pending review or appeal unless bail grantedThe execution of any sentence of imprisonment, fine or community service shall not be suspended by—
64. Execution of corporal punishment suspended pending appeal
Part V – General
65. Legal representationSubject to this Act and except as otherwise provided in any other law—
66. Amendment of plaint or summons. Costs
67. Examination of witnesses by interrogatories
68. Commission de bene esseAny court in any civil case where it may be necessary or expedient and consistent with the ends of justice so to do, may appoint a fit and proper person to be a commissioner to take the evidence of any witness upon application of any one of the parties, of which application due notice shall have been given to the other party, and the evidence so taken, subject to all lawful exceptions, shall be received as evidence in such case.
69. Administration of oathThe oath to be taken by any witness in any proceedings, whether civil or criminal, in any court shall be administered by the officer presiding at such proceedings or by the prosecutor or the clerk of the court in the presence of the said officer or, if the witness is to give his evidence through an interpreter, by the said officer through the interpreter or by the interpreter in the said officer’s presence.
70. Interpleader proceedings where third parties claim goods taken in execution
71. Contempt of court
72. Obstruction of messenger and other offencesAny person who—
73. Rules of courtThe Minister may make rules relating to any of the following matters in respect of magistrates courts—
74. Transitional provision: assistant magistrates
History of this document
23 June 2017 this version
01 January 1932