Ensuring Accessibility: The Urgent Need for Disability-Friendly Court Facilities in Zimbabwe
16 August 2023
Spread the love

Article written by: Adv. Kennedy Masiye (LLM-USA, Bachelor of Laws (UZ), Human Rights Lawyer ’14, Mandela Washington Fellow 15’)

In 2016, I had the honor of representing a client in the High Court of Zimbabwe. Although we achieved victory in the case, my client’s access to justice was severely hindered by the lack of appropriate facilities, preventing him from easily reaching the court or the Judge’s chambers. Each time we needed to visit the chambers, I found myself carrying him up and down the many flights of stairs. Unfortunately, as we fast forward to 2023, it becomes disheartening to realize that litigants and lawyers attending court at the High Court of Zimbabwe are still grappling with the same problem.

Kennedy Masiye

Regrettably, the Judicial Service Commission has failed to take any measures to address this longstanding issue. Today August 16, 2023, witnessing lawyer Obey Shava, a dedicated professional, being physically carried by his colleagues up the stairs while attempting to fulfill his duties within the court deeply saddened me.

It is precisely due to this distressing event that I am compelled to write this article. The dire need for accessible infrastructure within our judicial system has become painfully apparent. It is unacceptable that individuals, whether they are clients seeking justice or legal professionals dutifully serving their clients, are subjected to such physical hardships in their pursuit of legal remedies.

It is my hope that this article serves as a wake-up call, prompting the relevant authorities to recognize the urgency of the situation and take prompt action. Access to justice is a fundamental right that should be available to all, regardless of physical limitations. By addressing the inadequate infrastructure and ensuring the safety of all litigants, we can create a more inclusive and just judicial system for the benefit of all Zimbabweans.


Equal access to justice is a fundamental pillar of any democratic society. In line with international law obligations, it is crucial for the Zimbabwe High Court, along with other courts, to ensure that their facilities cater to the needs of disabled individuals. By providing accessible infrastructure that accommodates the unique requirements of disabled people, particularly those on wheelchairs, Zimbabwe can promote inclusivity, uphold human rights, and foster a more equitable legal system.

Addressing Physical Barriers

One of the most pressing challenges faced by disabled individuals in accessing the justice system is the lack of appropriate physical infrastructure. Regrettably, many court buildings in Zimbabwe, and indeed in several countries in Africa, still lack wheelchair ramps, elevators, and other vital accessibility features. Consequently, individuals with mobility impairments are forced to rely on the assistance of others or even be physically carried up and down staircases, a demeaning and undignified experience.

Promoting Inclusivity and Dignity

By ensuring that court facilities are disability-friendly, Zimbabwe can actively work towards fostering an inclusive society where every citizen, regardless of their physical abilities, can exercise their right to access justice independently. Installing ramps, elevators, and designated parking spaces close to court entrances, as well as providing accessible restrooms and seating areas, can significantly enhance the overall experience of disabled individuals within the legal system.

Moreover, creating an environment that accommodates disabled individuals fosters a sense of dignity and empowerment. It sends a powerful message that all citizens are equal before the law and that their needs and rights are respected. By removing physical barriers, the Zimbabwe High Court and other courts can demonstrate their commitment to upholding the principles of equality and justice for all.

International Law Obligations

Zimbabwe, as a signatory to various international conventions and treaties, has an obligation to ensure accessibility and equal rights for disabled individuals. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), which Zimbabwe ratified in 2013, explicitly recognizes the rights of disabled individuals to access justice on an equal basis with others. The convention emphasizes the importance of accessibility, reasonable accommodation, and the removal of barriers that hinder full participation in society.

Furthermore, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities obliges state parties to take appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to justice on an equal basis with others. This includes providing physical access to court facilities and ensuring that reasonable accommodations are made to facilitate effective participation in legal proceedings.


The Zimbabwe High Court, as a pillar of the country’s justice system, must prioritize making its facilities inclusive and accessible to all citizens. By investing in disability-friendly infrastructure, Zimbabwe can demonstrate its commitment to upholding human rights, equality, and the principles of international law. It is essential to embrace the notion that by removing physical barriers, we can create a legal system that empowers disabled individuals, promotes inclusivity, and ensures equal access to justice for all members of society.

The lack of appropriate facilities not only hampers the accessibility of justice but also undermines the fundamental principles of fairness and equality within our legal system. It is imperative that immediate action be taken to rectify this issue. Adequate infrastructure, such as ramps or elevators, should be implemented to ensure that individuals with mobility challenges can enter the court and access the necessary facilities without undue difficulty.