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This article was originally published in Issue 2 of Southern Africa Digital Rights, an online publication produced under the project "The African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms: Fostering a human rights-centred approach to privacy, data protection and access to the internet in Southern Africa".

True to the digital era that we are living in, several stakeholders have been going digital as was noted mostly during the COVID 19 pandemic, with increased uptake of internet banking, online news and e-government strategy among others. This also included the digitisation of the education sector in Zimbabwe through the implementation of the national e-learning strategy. [1]

The judiciary has also not been left behind as strides have already been made towards going digital. On the occasion of the official opening of the 2022 Legal Year on the 10th of January 2022 under the theme, “Use of technology to enhance efficiency and the rule of law in the judiciary” Chief Justice Luke Malaba noted the following:

“The Judiciary appears to have been slow in adopting electronic justice as it has found comfort in traditional ways of doing things, such as reliance on hard copies of books, allowing of physical appearances in courts, and the filing of physical documents. The Judiciary is doing this at its own peril, as the use of information communication technology has increasingly become the normal way of doing any business, including the business of delivering justice.”

In light of the above agenda, on the 1st of May 2022, the Judicial Service Commission in Zimbabwe officially launched the Integrated Electronic Case Management System (IECMS) and also the first paperless court in Zimbabwe – the Commercial Court Division of the High Court. The first phase of the implementation of the IECMS focuses on the Constitutional Court, Supreme Court and the Commercial Court Division of the High Court, while the other courts will be integrated in the second phase.

In February 2023, the Labour Court and also the Administrative Court also started utilising the IECMS, as part of the second phase. [2] It is reported that some litigants had challenges using the system allegedly due to network challenges.

The IECMS integrates systems from other stakeholders or institutions within the judicial sector which include the Zimbabwe Republic Police, the National Prosecuting Authority, the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services and judicial officers. [3]

This system facilitates digital access to judgements, online case tracking, virtual court hearings, e-filing of cases and e-payment of fees among other features. The launch of this system thus brings to the fore a plethora of internet governance issues.

Internet governance issues with regards to the IECMS

Access to devices

To begin with, access to devices like a laptop, computer or smart phone is a key requirement for the use of this system. In September 2021, the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency-ZIMSTATS and the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe presented a report on ICT Access by Households and Individuals which highlighted that 58.8% of Zimbabwean households have a smart phone. Of the aforementioned percentage, the majority of the smart phone owners are based in urban areas. This shows the limited access to smart phones in Zimbabwe and more so the continued exclusion of people in rural and marginalised communities.

A March 2022 report indicated a much lower smart phone penetration rate at 52% while 22 % of the devices were reported to have low data handling capacity. [4]

Despite the aforementioned, in November 2021, the finance minister Mthuli Ncube proposed a USD$50.00 levy on all mobile phones to curb tax evasion, and such levy would be collected prior to registration of new cellular handsets by mobile network operators, thus further restricting access to devices.

Digital literacy

Further, for one to interact on the system and enjoy its benefits or features, they need to create an account by registering on the website. [5] The system will require that one enters their personal details like full name, country code, cell phone number, email address, username and password. An activation email is then sent to the person’s email address to activate the account and from there on, access to the system is by logging in using the username and password. [6]

Based on the aforementioned, digital literacy emerges as another pivotal factor. All previously mentioned stakeholders should possess the capability to use smart devices, navigate the internet proficiently, create email accounts, and access the IECMS platform. This proficiency in digital literacy is essential not only for legal practitioners filing cases online and attending virtual hearings but also for self-represented individuals. Additionally, judges require digital literacy as they draft orders and judgments.

One group that has been normally left behind in technological advances is the elderly. There is a definite need to provide digital literacy trainings which is in line with the 2022 theme for the World Telecommunications and Information Society Day, “Digital technologies for older persons and healthy ageing”.

In the build up to and post the launch of the IECMS, the Law Society of Zimbabwe and the Judicial Service Commission provided trainings for legal practitioners to familiarise and understand the system. However, more work needs to be done particularly to equip other stakeholders and broadly the public.

Access to the internet

As noted in the above description of how the IECMS works, it is clear that one needs quality internet access in order to be able to use the system. This is restricted, however, due to high costs of data and also limited infrastructure.

The Q3 2021 POTRAZ Sector Performance report showed that internet penetration in Zimbabwe stood at 62.6% [7] while the 2022 report by Data Reportal, indicated an even lower penetration rate of 30.6 % of the total population. [8]

The recently published Q4 2022 Sector Performance Report by POTRAZ showed a 14,9% decline in mobile data usage and also an increase in operating costs for the players in the telecommunications industry. [9]

A culture of cybersecurity

Court processes involve filing documents that contain personally identifying information, such as names and service addresses. Moreover, when establishing an IECMS account, individuals are required to provide personal information. Given that this system integrates multiple stakeholders within the judicial sector, cybersecurity becomes exceptionally critical.

In Zimbabwe, several cases have been reported where government websites have been hacked including the Ministry of Defence, the National University of Science and Technology, and zoom meetings of government agencies. While one of the requirements when setting up the account is a security question and answer which can be relied on for recovering passwords or account should the user forget, more strides should be made towards promoting a culture of cybersecurity for both institutions and individuals.


The digitisation of Zimbabwe’s judiciary marks a significant stride in the nation’s digital transformation. However, there’s an immediate need for cross-sector collaboration to ensure that this advancement doesn’t restrict access to justice. The civil society sector, POTRAZ, Ministry of ICTs, and the Judicial Service Commission bear the responsibility of enhancing access to smart devices, affordable and reliable internet, digital literacy, as well as ensuring digital safety and security. Such a system is crucial for fostering justice, and it’s imperative that members of the public are not left behind. Therefore, concerted and collaborative efforts must be undertaken to ensure comprehensive public awareness.






6 Obey Manyenga, A new dawn as Zim Court go digital, Zim Juris, Issue 1, 2022