15 October 2018

Zimbabwe: Judiciary Open to Criticism, Says CJ

Chief Justice Luke Malaba has challenged lawyers to critique court decisions as this can have a beneficial impact in the improvement of the country's legal system. He said the Judiciary was open to robust criticism and would not approve anything that seeks to curry favour with it.

Chief Justice Malaba's remarks at the launch of the University of Zimbabwe Law Journal held at university on Friday were clear testimony that justice is not a cloistered virtue and it must be subjected to scrutiny and candid comments from lawyers and the public.

"We expect robust criticism," he said. "We expect tearing apart of these decisions. If you cannot, please don't attempt."

Chief Justice Malaba said he expected the law journal, which replaced the Zimbabwe Law Review, to set high standards of legal scholarship.

"We don't expect articles which are published because the writer expects to be quoted in a judgment," he said.

"We are not there for that purpose. If the standard of the article is so high and that it ceases to be just an opinion, certainly it is our duty as a court to cite that article with pride."

Chief Justice Malaba debunked the misconception that the courts were the centre of universal law.

He said the law stood on its own away from the courts.

"It is in the Constitution, statutes, common law and so on," he said.

"Yes, that is where it is reposed. It is there that we look upon the contributors to this journal to exercise the mind and show us the way this law as it stands, existing law should be interpreted, where the court's decision has gone wrong, if it has gone wrong."

Justice Malaba pointed out that judges might be the authoritative interpreters of the law, particularly as a Constitutional Court, but they did not claim monopoly of the understanding of the law.

"The law is for everybody," he said. "It is for the common man, the lawyer, the legal academic is an expert in his or her own right.

"The legal academic must be proud to maintain his or her independence."

Chief Justice Malaba urged lawyers to desist from a mentality of always doing things to please the court.

He said he expected the legal academia to maintain their independence.

Dean of Law Dr Innocent Maja welcomed the challenge thrown to the legal academia by Chief Justice Malaba, saying the legal fraternity and the academia will rise to the challenge.

"It is a very good development, he has thrown to us a challenge," he said. "We will exercise our independence as the academia and academics to give him that particular robust criticism to the judgments that are coming."

Dr Maja said the robust, but constructive criticism of court judgments would help in the development of the law and also assist judges reflecting on the judgments already there," he said.

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