There is a strengthening of the relationship between non-legal practitioners and creditors attributable to a number of factors which include the following.
- The legal practitioners' costs involved in debt collection are extremely high for an average creditor. Whilst the law recognizes that in principle a successful creditor should be reimbursed by the debtor for the legal expenses incurred in bringing the law-suit, in practice the tariff laid down by the rules of court is so unrealistic that a creditor can recover from the debtor only a small fraction of the legal fees legitimately charged by his or her legal practitioner. Moreover the collection commission which the legal practitioner is obliged to charge his client for collecting an uncontested debt is recoverable from the debtor only where there is an agreement between the creditor and the debtor to that effect.
- The legal procedure is time consuming and cumbersome. The courts are overloaded with cases due to the shortage of court officials. A long period of time lapses before a creditor can obtain judgment and proceed by way of a writ of execution. The process for civil imprisonment is long and the creditor is required to contribute to the upkeep of the debtor whilst in prison. In any event, civil imprisonment on the ground of inability to fulfil a contractual obligation is unconstitutional in terms of the new Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20). The service of process by the sheriffs and messengers is slow. They too are overloaded with work and cannot cope with the existing backlog. They also charge for unsuccessful attempts to serve the debtor.
- The procedure is too formal and there are few options available to the debtor. The debtor admits, consents to judgment or files a defense to the claim. There is no provision for an enquiry by the court into the financial status of the debtor at the onset in order to ascertain whether the debtor has the means to satisfy the claim. Such a practice would shorten the court process and avoid wasting time and costs and resources with a case which at the end of the day will not be enforceable.
- Legal practitioners are now reluctant to take up debt collection work because the collection commission prescribed by their by-laws is low when compared to the fees they are permitted to charge for other work.
- The information contained in the summons is often complicated and confusing to laymen who will simply ignore them thereby further delaying the finalization of the matter.
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