n African Human Rights Law Journal - Standing, access to justice and the rule of law in Zimbabwe - focus : the rule of law in sub-Saharan Africa

Volume 18 Number 1
  • ISSN : 1609-073X
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2096



This article argues that the liberalisation of locus standi, particularly the provisions of section 85(1) of the Zimbabwean Constitution, has magnified opportunities for access to justice and the rule of law in Zimbabwe. Liberalising standing allows a wide range of persons to approach the courts for personal relief or to vindicate the public interest. Furthermore, the Constitution also abolishes the ‘dirty hands doctrine’, a common law concept in terms of which a litigant lacks standing if he or she has not complied with the legislation the legality or constitutionality of which they are challenging. The new approach permits litigants to launch proceedings challenging the constitutionality of pieces of legislation that they allegedly have violated. More importantly, the provisions governing standing outline four principles with which court rules must comply. These principles are meant to ensure that the constitutional promises of access to justice and the rule of law are not thwarted by restrictive court rules at every level of the judicial system. In a way, the four principles allow courts to entertain as many cases as possible to ensure both that there is due respect for the rule of law and that the majority of litigants have access to both procedural and substantive justice. Finally, it is argued that the general ouster of the courts’ jurisdiction in land-related legal claims undermines the concept of the rule of law and allows the state to violate property rights by grabbing land without either paying compensation or allowing the owners of such land to approach courts for redress.

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