Zimbabwe: Judiciary Under Siege

29 October 2020

Chief Court Reporter

THE anti-corruption posture taken by the Judiciary has unsettled many culprits that are now resorting to social media and newspapers to attack the Judiciary, a top Government official has said.

The Judiciary and Chief Justice Luke Malaba in particular, has adopted zero tolerance to corruption and this is bearing fruit in the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) where there are no sacred cows.

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Permanent Secretary Mrs Virginia Mabhiza hailed the stance taken by the Judiciary in dealing with corrupt elements, including on the bench.

However, this has attracted brickbats from anonymous culprits that are now accusing the Judiciary of having been captured.

Reacting to the anonymous document purported to have been authored by the superior courts judges and being circulated on social media and newspapers attacking the judiciary, the JSC and the Chief Justice in particular, Mrs Mbhiza said that the issues raised in the document were the same old stories, which are being recycled and had been investigated already.

The document that was addressed to President Mnangagwa raised a plethora of allegations against the Judiciary and the Commission.

"We do not believe this document was authored by judges because if it was, then we see no reason really why it should be anonymous persons," said Mrs Mabhiza.

"Honourable judges have previously made complaints and written petitions to the Chief Justice, the JSC and His Excellency. At no time have they done this anonymously."

In July this year, Chief Justice Malaba issued an internal memorandum directed to the High Court judges on the need to pronounce judgments when they are ready, the judges wrote to the Judge President, identifying themselves, expressing concern.

They have also done petitions identifying themselves before expressing concern on their conditions of service.

In 2015 the judges wrote a petition addressed to the then Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, complaining after he publicly lambasted them for not performing their duties, againthey identified themselves.

They appended signatures on each of the petitions.

Mrs Mabhiza said the document which has gone viral on various social media platforms was authored by those who are aggrieved by the stance taken by Chief Justice Malaba and the Commission to fight corruption and hold people including members of the Judiciary accountable.

"The stance which is well supported by Government is commendable," she said.

"It cannot be a coincidence that the attack on the Chief Justice and the JSC comes immediately after the Chief Justice had caused the investigations of three judges for various acts of gross incompetence and gross misconduct.

"This is a carefully orchestrated move that is meant to cow the establishment including the Chief Justice and the Commission from inquiring into acts of misconduct against some senior members of the judiciary."

Mrs Mabhiza also expressed satisfaction with the work that is being done by the JSC, saying her ministry supported the stance of Chief Justice Malaba that "whilst the Judiciary is independent they must also be accountable".

The Judiciary's anti-corruption drive recently claimed the scalp of Supreme Court judge, Justice Francis Bere who was fired by President Mnangagwa for gross misconduct following recommendations by the tribunal set up to inquire into his fitness to hold the office of a judge.

He was fired for interfering with a Harare lawyer involved in a matter in which he had conflict of interest.

The judge telephoned the lawyer, who was representing Zinara, asking him to consider settling a civil dispute pitting Zinara against Fremus Enterprises linked to his relatives.

He was on suspension since January pending conclusion of investigations.

Retired judge Justice Simbi Mubako chaired the three-member tribunal which investigated the judge's conduct.

Another High Court judge, Justice Erica Fungai Ndewere is battling to stop a tribunal to be set up to inquire into the question of her removal from office on allegations of conduct inconsistent with a judicial office.

The judge filed an urgent chamber application on Tuesday at the High Court seeking an interim interdict to halt the setting up of a tribunal by President Mnangagwa to investigate her conduct pending the determination of the legality of the process followed.

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