Zimbabwe: Five Vacancies Created for ConCourt Judges

Zimbabwe judges (file photo).

Five vacancies have arisen at the Constitutional Court (ConCourt), following the expiry of the temporary transitional constitutional provisions under which Supreme Court judges also served under ConCourt for the first seven years of the court's existence.

The seven years, which started in 2013 after Zimbabweans voted overwhelmingly for the new Constitution, expired last month on 22 May.

However, the provision expired without new appointments being made.

According to the legal think-tank, Veritas, only the Chief Justice, Luke Malaba and his deputy, Elizabeth Gwaunza, remain as ConCourt judges.

According to Section 166 of the Constitution, the ConCourt must consist of the Chief Justice, the deputy chief justice as ex officio judges, and five other judges.

"With only the two ex officio judges - the chief justice and the deputy chief justice it would have been impossible to comply with the Constitution's requirements for either a three or seven-judge court to hear cases," Veritas said.

"The chief justice accordingly appointed five acting judges in terms of section 166(2) of the Constitution. This provision permits him to appoint a judge or former as an acting judge of the Constitutional Court 'for a limited period' if the need arises."

The Judiciary Service Commission has already advertised vacancies for the five ConCourt judges and invited members of the public to submit nominations of suitably qualified individuals.

Veritas urged Zimbabweans making nominations to think outside the box and nominate people who have not served previously as judges.

"It is time to think outside the box when submitting nominations to fill the present vacancies, and to contemplate the possibility of at least one or two appointments being made from outside the members of the present judiciary.

"Such appointments would not be without precedent. South Africa's first Constitutional Court bench included at least two persons who had never before served as judges; both were qualified lawyers, but Justice Kate O'Regan came from academia and Justice Albie Sachs was a long-time anti-apartheid activist.

"Both were generally considered to have performed admirably as Constitutional Court judges and to have brought fresh perspectives to the work of the court."

Selected candidates will then be subjected to public interviews by the JSC, after which the JSC prepares a list of its nominees for submission to President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The appointments are being done when the government is proposing amendments to the Constitution in view believed to be Mnangagwa's attempt to consolidate political power by creating an imperial presidency.

Part of the amendments including removing the process of public interviews in the selection of judges and make the selection process opaque.

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