10 May 2017

Zimbabwe: Chief Justice Appointment - Mnangagwa Keeps Eye On the Ball

VICE PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa returned to Parliament Tuesday to further push a controversial first amendment to the country's new constitution which seeks to place the appointment of the country's top judges in the hands of the President.

The VP, who is seen as eyeing President Robert Mugabe's job, is under fire for attempts to torpedo the appointment of the country's Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice and the Judge President of the High Court, currently being done through a public interview process by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

Mnangagwa suffered a setback when alleged attempts to stop the replacement of former Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku through a court challenge fronted by a little-known University of Zimbabwe law student fell through February this year.

President Mugabe also went ahead and appointed a jurist who had emerged tops during public interviews conducted last year.

But Mnangagwa came Tuesday to claim that Constitutional Amendment of Zimbabwe (No.1) Bill was both constitutional and in line with international best practice.

"The appointment procedure must be in tandem with international best practice and be subjected to proper administrative processes with no internal and external influence whatsoever," Mnangagwa said during the second reading of the Bill Tuesday.

"This can only be achieved when the constitutional bedrock on which such appointments should be anchored is solid enough to arrest any mischief, perceptions and challenges that may arise in the administration of justice.

"...Such appointment must be executed in a manner that does not compromise the constitutional, legislative and administrative values and etiquette expected of such crucial officials.

"The appointment procedure must be in tandem with international best practice and be subjected to proper administrative processes with no internal and external influence whatsoever."

Mnangagwa is seeking the amendment of Section 180 to set out the appointment of the three top judges by the President in consultation with the Judicial Service Commission.

The VP argues that subjecting aspiring candidates to the top judicial posts created an invidious situation in which junior JSC members are called to interview their superiors.

He also insists if the process remained as it was, possibilities were high that the outgoing Chief Justice, could abuse their position as JSC chair to influence the appointment of friends.

Critics have been quick to accuse Mnangagwa of cherry-picking for constitutional amendment, the appointment of the country's most influential court officials while anticipating he could wake up as interim president should the incumbent exit his job through death or incapacitation.

Mnangagwa has put up a spirited fight to succeed Mugabe, who at 93, is seen way into the twilight of both his political career and life.

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