15 May 2017

Zimbabwe: Mugabe Confirms Executive Capture of the Judiciary - Scorned By Rivals

President Robert Mugabe has come under fire for openly admitting he used the country's now late chief justice to silence human and property rights concerns by both black and white Zimbabweans during the onset of the country's violent land seizures in 2000.

Addressing mourners at the late Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku's funeral at the national shrine on Saturday, Mugabe confirmed a widely-held view that the executive was exerting some undue influence on the country's judiciary.

Mugabe was unapologetic in claims that the late jurist was a participant in the so-called Third Chimurenga which was viewed as an attempt by the populist leader to reverse his warning political fortunes through land seizures ostensibly for redistribution to landless blacks.

During the period, the opposition claimed that over a hundred of its supporters were killed.

Mugabe said his regime had more intimate relations with Chidyausiku when the latter became the country's top judge adding that he used to summon the judge at any time to have audience with him.

"To us, he was a political hero who served as a judge whom we relied upon to defend blacks against whites who were determined to scuttle the programme and invite the British into our affairs," Mugabe said in Shona.

The veteran leader said, as a black judge, Chidyausiku "knew quite well he was also obliged to defend his own interests to land ownership", hence passing rulings that were in favour of the Zanu PF regime.

President Mugabe's comments have however, elicited strong condemnation from opponents who also felt hard done by the country's bench in many instances.

MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said President Mugabe had admitted the country's bench was biased towards his regime.

"Mugabe has let the cat out of the bag," Gutu told NewZimbabwe.com on Sunday.

"In most, if not all politically-motivated cases, the judiciary has been invariably compliant and subservient to the whims and fantasies of the Zanu PF regime.

"This runs contrary to the sacrosanct principle of judicial independence. But then what do you expect from a dictatorship in the mould of the Zanu PF regime."

Opposition PDP secretary general Godern Moyo also said Mugabe's utterances were proof the country's judiciary was not independent.

"It is an extension of Zanu PF legal affairs secretariat," he said.

"Instead of being loyal to the Constitution of the Republic, the bench is loyal to the imperial President of Zanu PF.

"It is no secret that most, if not all of Godfrey's judgements were full of Zanu of odour. Very few judges have pedigree in Zimbabwe."

Moyo added: "The removal of Zanu PF will also liberate any judges who are forced daily to work against their conscience and their better judgements by Zanu PF."

Harare based political commentator Jacob Rukweza said it would always be difficult for the country's judges to remain independent for as long they remained beholden to the President for their appointment.

He added: "If Zimbabweans want an independent Chief Justice they should change the appointing authority."

The late Chidyausiku ascended to the top job in the country's courts after his predecessor, Antony Gubbay was put under pressure to step down at the turn of the century by then Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa.

This followed instances in which Gubbay and the courts made rulings against government sponsored land invasions which saw a handful white land owners killed with many made to endure torture ordeals by marauding war veterans.

The land reform exercise was also characterised by massive looting by Zanu PF followers with tacit approval by the State.

The country's controversial land invasions also disenfranchised and rendered jobless, thousands of farm workers who were pushed off their homes as land was parcelled out to new owners.

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