Zimbabwe Criminal Defense Manual - Jurisdiction of Courts

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Place of Trial

Magistrates courts

An ordinary, senior or provincial magistrate may normally only try offences committed within his province and a regional magistrate may only try cases within his regional division. This basic rule is, however, subject to numerous exceptions and qualifications. A case may be tried by a court which has jurisdiction to try cases in a particular province or regional division

  • if any act or omission or event which is an element of the offence takes place in that province or regional division;
  • if the offence was commenced or completed in that province or regional division;
  • if the offence was committed within five kilometres of the boundary of that province or regional division;
  • if the offence was committed on any vehicle, including a train, during a journey which passed through that province or regional division or within five kilometres thereof;
  • in cases of theft or receiving or obtaining property unlawfully, if X has or has had any of the property in his possession in that province or division.

In addition,

  • persons charged with incitement or as accessories (after the fact) may be tried by any court having jurisdiction to try the principal offenders;
  • in respect of statutory offences which the legislature has provided may be tried extra-territorially, a court in a province or regional division may try the case even though no part of the offence was committed within the province or regional division.
  • in cases where offences have been committed in several jurisdictions, these may be tried in any of such jurisdictions;
  • provided X consents to it, the Attorney-General may cause X to be tried for the offence in the court of any province;
  • when a court has remanded a person in custody for trial before another court, the prisoner must be transmitted forthwith to the prison of the province where he or she is to be tried.

s 56(2) & (7) MCA

High Court

The High Court can try cases committed in any part of the country.

Crimes Triable

By magistrates

No magistrate may try treason, murder or statutory offences attracting the death penalty: s 49(1) MCA. Magistrates courts may try any other crime

However, only a regional court can try rape cases, unless the Attorney-General remits the case for trial to a magistrates court other than a regional court or it is a summary trial in respect of a person under 18 and the Attorney-General has authorised the trial: s 54(6) MCA.

By High Court

The High Court can try any type of criminal cases, including crimes which may attract the death sentence, including murder and treason.

Penalties Imposable

By magistrates

Ordinary Jurisdiction

In terms of s 50 MCA, in summary trials and on remittal from the Attorney-General the maximum sentences which may be imposed by the different grades of magistrates are as follows:

  • Regional- 10 years or level 12
  • Provincial - 5 years of level 10
  • Senior - 4 years of level 9
  • Ordinary - In summary trial, 2 yrs or level 7 / On remittal from Attorney-General, 4 yrs or level 9

In all cases where imprisonment may be imposed by any court it may be imposed with or without labour. It is virtually unknown for imprisonment to be imposed without labour.

Special Jurisdiction

In terms of s 50 MCA, in summary trials and on remittal from the Attorney-General the maximum sentences which may be imposed by the different grades of magistrates are as follows:

Grade of magistrate and maximum sentencing jurisdiction

  • Regional - 10 yrs or fine up to level 12, whether on summary trial or remittal by AG
  • Provincial - 5 yrs or fine up to level 10, whether on summary trial or remittal by AG
  • Senior - 4 yrs or fine up to level 9, whether on summary trial or remittal by AG
  • Ordinary - On summary trial 2 yrs or fine up to level 7 / On remittal by AG under increased jurisdiction given in s 50, 4 yrs or fine up to level 9

In all cases where imprisonment may be imposed, it may be imposed with or without labour.

Increased Jurisdiction

In terms of s 51 MCA these jurisdictional limits are increased in certain circumstances:

GRADE OF MAGISTRATE OFFENCES MAXIMUM SENTENCING JURISDICTION
Regional magistrate Public violence, malicious damage to property or attempt to commit these crimes or robbery or attempted robbery in aggravating circumstances (aggravating that X or his accomplice had firearm or dangerous weapon, that X killed a person or inflicted or threatened to inflict gievious bodily harm) 12 years or fine up to level 13
Regional magistrate whether on summary trial or remittal from AG Sexual offences (rape, aggravated indecent assault, sexual intercourse or performing indecent acts with your person, bestiality, sexual intercourse within the prohibited degree of relationship or complicity in sexual crimes.) All these magistrates will have special jurisdiction to impose the penalties prescribed for these offences in CLRA
Regional magistrate whether on summary trial or remittal from AG Deliberate infection of another with sexually-transmitted disease or deliberate transmission of HIV. Jurisdiction to impose penalties prescribed for these offences on CLRA
Ordinary, senior & provincial magistrate whether on summary trial or remittal from AG Dangerous drug offences in Chapter VII of CLCA 10 years or fine up to level 12
Ordinary, senior & provincial magistrate whether on suymmary trial or remittal from AG Public violence, malicious damage to property or attempts to commit these crimes. 7 years or to fine up to level 11
Ordinary, senior, provincial and regional magistrates Theft, stock theft and unlawful entry into premises. 20 years or fine up to level 14


In various other statutes magistrates are given increased sentencing jurisdiction.

By High Court

The High Court can impose any competent penalty, including life imprisonment and the death sentence.

Crimes Committed Outside Zimbabwe

Section 5 of CLCA provides that a court can try any crime either in terms of CLCA or any other enactment if the crime or an essential element of the crime was committed:

  • wholly inside Zimbabwe;
  • partly outside Zimbabwe if the conduct that completed the crime took place inside Zimbabwe;
  • wholly or partly outside Zimbabwe if the crime is a crime against the public security in Zimbabwe or against the safety of the State of Zimbabwe or the crime has produced or was intended to produce a harmful effect in Zimbabwe or the accused realized there was a real risk that it might produce such an effect (There are numerous offences in CLCA of this nature).

Section 5(2) provides that any other enactment providing for extra-territorial effect will continue to apply. For instance, there are various offences under the Exchange Control Act [Chapter 22:05] which can be committed extraterritorially.

For the position under the common law see Mharapara 1985 (2) ZLR 211 (S) and Kapurira S-110-92

Illegally Bringing Accused Into Jurisdiction

This a complex issue. If this issue arises in a case in the magistrates court, the magistrate should refer to case of Beahan 1991 (2) ZLR 98 (S) where this matter is dealt with. If X has been kidnapped from the foreign State thereby violating the sovereignty of that State, jurisdiction will not be assured. But the court will have jurisdiction if X is surrendered by the foreign State in contravention of the municipal law of the State of refuge.


See Zimbabwe Criminal Defense Manual