Civil Justice Reform Program

1. Press            2. Position Papers            3.  Consolidated Reports

By 1980s there was widespread agreement in Tanzania that state-led development programmes were failing and there was an increasing recognition that it was the private sector that is the real engine of business and economic growth. It is now clear that business environment of any country depends on great measure upon an efficient and accessible civil justice system. An efficient and accessible civil justice system will enable more timely and less costly resolution of disputes. This will enable greater access to justice for all Tanzanians. The Government of the United Republic of Tanzania is therefore fully committed to increase access to justice for all Tanzanians.  The Government has long recognized that reforms to procedures governing the operations of the civil courts in Tanzania are necessary if delays in case disposal and complaints about the conduct of advocates are to be addressed.

Civil Justice Review is one of REFORM initiatives being undertaken by the Government under Business Environment Strengthening for Tanzania (BEST) Programme. This Programme is cross-cutting, multi-donor supported Programme, geared towards enabling the Government to provide the required business environment for the growth and development of Private Sector by addressing legal and regulatory frameworks, costs, risks and barriers to competition and other challenges facing enterprises. BEST Programme was approved by the Cabinet of Tanzania in July 2002 and its implementation started in February, 2004. The Government implements the Civil Justice Review Project through the Law Reform Commission of Tanzania (LRCT).


Objective of the Civil Justice is to improve environment for business by reducing the complexity, cost and time taken to process and resolve civil disputes.  This reform area address the need to improve access to justice by Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and big business alike, so as to improve speed and quality of services provided by the court system. In concrete terms, Civil Justice Review is aimed at-

  • . Reducing the burden of doing business in Tanzania, especially among SMEs by reforming and eliminating regulatory, procedural and administrative barriers; and
  • . Enhancing efficiency delivery of government service to the private sector by putting in place a civil justice system that resolves commercial disputes timely and efficiently.

In 2005, the Law Reform Commission of Tanzania formed a Technical Working Group (CJTWG) comprising of representatives from different institutions, namely; Judiciary, Ministry of Constitutional Affairs and Justice, Tanganyika Law Society, Academia and Private Sector.  The Chairman of the LRCT leads the CJTWG.  The Technical Working Group suggested improvements to the machinery of the Civil Justice in Tanzania with the aim of reducing delays, costs and complexities associated with civil cases.

To kick start debate on reforming the Civil Justice System, a conference was hosted by the High Court (Commercial Division) on the 25th April, 2006 to discuss the importance of Civil Justice and the basic principles that should be met by judges and advocates.  The conference invited speakers from Tanzania and UK to share their experiences and views on reforming Civil Justice.POSITION PAPER
In December, 2006, the Technical Working Group (CJTWG) produced a Position Paper which put forward a number of recommendations on the future of the Civil Justice System in Tanzania. CJTWG recommended a civil justice system that:

  • . is just in the results it delivers;
  • . is fair in the way it treats litigants;
  • . offers appropriate procedures at a reasonable costs;
  • . deals with cases with reasonable speed;
  • . is understandable to those who use it;
  • . is responsive to the needs of those who use it.

The Position Paper in addition recognized that Civil Justice in Tanzania is too expensive for the majority of Tanzanians; is often unequal and uncertain and courts are slow in bringing cases to a conclusion.  The Position Paper acknowledges that the difficulty of forecasting what litigation will cost and how long it will last induces fear, leading to reluctance to engage in the process.  Finally, the Position Paper recognizes that regulation of lawyers in Tanzania is inadequate.

Technical Working Group (CJTWG) recommended a thorough review of key pieces of legislation that are relevant to the civil justice system of Tanzania. These laws include:-

  • – The Magistrates Courts Act
  • – The  Advocates Act
  • – The Tanganyika Law Society Act
  • – The Civil Procedure Code
  • – The Arbitration Act
  • – The Evidence Act
  • – The Government Proceedings Act
  • – The Appellate Jurisdiction Act
  • – The Government Proceedings (Procedure) Rules
  • – The Tanzania Court of Appeal Rules
  • – A number of rules made under the Judicature and Application of Laws Act such as:
    • . Appearances by Officers of the Government Rules
    • . Courts Vacations Rules
    •  . Court Fees Rules
    • . Civil Procedure (Appeals in Proceedings Originating in Primary Courts) Rules
    • . Court Brokers and Process Servers (Appointments, Remuneration and Discipline) Rules
    • . High Court Registries Rules
    • . Language of Courts Rules
    • . Commercial Court (Fees) Rules

Also recommended for review are laws relating to probate and administration of deceased estates which form part and parcel of the Civil Justice System. Apart from identifying laws to be reviewed, the CJTWG also recommends reforms on administration of courts, including the use of modern information communication technology by the courts.

The LRCT planned and conducted extensive consultations from June to September, 2007 on the recommendations contained in the Position Paper.  These consultations took place in Dar Es Salaam, Arusha, Mbeya, Dodoma and Mwanza.  During these consultative meetings different stakeholders were given the opportunity to discuss the Position Paper and its recommendations and observations. Stakeholders included judges, magistrates, lawyers and other court users.  The Position Paper was also distributed to different interested stakeholders and also posted in the website of Law Reform Commission of Tanzania.  Views of stakeholders were taken on board and will inform consultants who will b tasked to review specific pieces of legislation subject of civil justice review.

The draft pieces of legislation will be forwarded by the Law Reform Commission as formal Reports to the Minister of Constitutional Affairs and Justice for enactment of new pieces of legislation.

It is anticipated that the Civil Justice Reform will lead to more efficient disposal of civil cases in Tanzania and to more effective enforcement of judicial decisions in such cases. Tanzanian economy stands to benefit if her civil justice system is efficient in the resolution of disputes among private individuals and entities, resolution of commercial disputes, personal injury claims, and disputes between individuals and the government. An efficient civil justice system is a critical factor in effective enforcement of commercial contracts which stimulates and encourages the development of linkages between different economic sectors, between large and small investors and between foreign and domestic investors.  Business growth and expansion is important because it leads to more job opportunities being available to Tanzanians and more revenue being made available to the Government and that can be used to deliver higher quality services to the public and generation of the higher rates of economic growth that are necessary to eradicate poverty in line with MKUKUTA.

The human cost of delays in civil justice system was best articulated in a 1979 case- of Mayala Gwezo v. Haji S.A. Karim t/a Karim  Transport, Civil Case No. 218 of 1979 Dsm HC  (Unreported) Mayala Gwezo wrote a letter to the Registrar of High Court complaining that his case (which had by that time taken 3 years in courts) had dragged on for a long time. He informed the Registrar that:

  • – Delays resulted in the failure to continue with his business due to the fact that the amount which was the subject matter of the suit was his capital and delaying a decision in the dispute automatically made him out of business.
  • – A result of inability to continue with his business, his family life was disrupted because of the economic hardship the family was going through and there was a possibility that his family would break up.
  • – All these problems had had the effect of his developing stomach ulcers and he on certain occasions became neurotic.