E-court finally launched in Malawi

By Chisomo Phiri

E-court system,a digital platform which seeks to link prisons and police stations with courts in the country has been finally launched.

The launch of the system was held on Wednesday April 24, 2024 in the capital Lilongwe.

Speaking to journalists, Chief Justice, Rizine Mzikamanda SC said the newly launched E-court system will help to resolve disputes conveniently, efficiently as well as timely in course of delivering justice in the country.

Fenella Frost and Mzikamanda

He described the innovative court system as a giant step in the administration of justice saying marginalised communities will be able to access justice without geographical challenges.

He said, 85 percent of people in the country live in rural areas where access of justice is minimal hence development of E-court system will help in achieving equitable justice.

“E-court system which has been launched today is important because it will help in administration of justice in the country. E-court system will bring justice closer and takes justice to the people. People will not be required to travel long distances to access justice. E-court system will also help to reduce delays of justice,” he said.

The Chief Justice further urged users of E-court system to embrace good utilisation of the technology in order to achieve its intended purpose.

“I have encouraged the users not to turn the system into a white elephant. With technical support they have received, am hoping that there will be minimal challenges in terms of usage of the system,”he¬† added.

United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Resident Representative, Fenella Frost said the system will not only help the government in saving money through court proceedings but also help people living in rural areas to access justice timely.

Frost further said the first phase of E-court system has covered 20 sites ranging from courts, police stations and prisons.

“The great advantage of E-court system is that it brings justice closer to the population. Many Malawians in rural areas travel long distances to access justice so this system will help to reduce travel costs. This is a pilot phase and the sites covered ranges from local courts, prison and police,” She said.

In his remarks, Commissioner General of Malawi Prison Service, Masauko Ng’ombeyagwada Wiskot said E-court system has come at a time when Malawi prisons are struggling with the problem of congestion.

Wiskot added that currently there are 16,200 prisoners in the country which is higher number compared to 8,000 inmates which are supposed to be accommodated in Malawi’s prisons.

“As you might be aware that Malawi Prison Service is facing a number of challenges and one of them is overcrowding. We look at E-court system as a way of reducing congestion because prisoners will be able to access justice while in prison. Suspects or prisoners who have appealed for their conviction needs transport to be escorted to courts so this system will help to reduce travel costs,” he said.

UNDP is providing financial support for the implementation  of the initiative.