By Farayi Machamire
The chairperson of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) Luke Malaba was yesterday asked to investigate Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) judge Priscilla Chigumba for allegedly behaving “most dishonourably and in an unworthy manner” over her “appalling” handling of the electoral process.
A concerned citizen Nkosilathi Emmanuel Moyo has lodged a complaint with the commission, saying that Chigumba was bringing the judiciary into disrepute.
He said while the conduct complained of has manifested itself in the discharge by Chigumba’s functions as the Zec chairperson, he said she was, however, appointed to lead the electoral commission by virtue her being a judge. The two cannot be therefore be set apart, he argued.
This comes after Chigumba has raised the ire of opposition parties which are ganging up against her for using the law to justify her alleged bias and stonewall crucial electoral reforms necessary for a credible vote.
“The reason I have written to you honourable chairman, is that the question of whether … Chigumba should remain in the esteemed constitutional position of a judge of the high court has arisen. My view is that ..Chigumba has behaved most dishonourably and in an unworthy manner, misconducted herself, such misconduct being such as is contemplated under section 187(1) of the Constitution, and, shown such incompetence as is consistent with her remaining in a public office of trust, least of all that of a judge of the high court,” the letter to Malaba, delivered yesterday, said.
The JSC appeal panel must now weigh whether there should be an inquiry into Chigumba’s conduct under the JSC Act.
Efforts to reach Chigumba last night were futile.
Moyo outlined seven cases of misconduct that he said must be taken into account, including the Voters Database Scandal, Ballot Paper Issues, allegedly pitching camp with one of the political contestants, postal ballot, unbecoming and worthless conduct, unbridled arrogance and basic errors on the law.
On the Voters Database scandal, Moyo said Chigumba conducted herself “criminally” by availing the Zec database to Zanu PF contrary to the provisions of the law.
“In doing so, she has not only breached the law but has unnecessarily exposed her hand by showing favouritism to Zanu PF. She has in this regard exposed the private and confidential details of the entire citizenry to men and women of questionable standing.
“In view of the violent electoral history of this country, the information is now being used as a soft form of voter intimidation,” he said.
Moyo also said she has refused to avail candidates and all concerned a proper voters’ roll with analysable images as is required the law.
“Rather than deal with all these matters in a manner that would silence every doubt and satisfy all scruple, Chigumba has flatly refused to yield to common sense, unnecessarily descending into commonness,” the damning letter said.
Moyo also said contrary to the agreement reached between Zec and candidates participating in the harmonised elections, Chigumba has not conducted a transparent ballot paper printing process.
“There is evidence that Chigumba has imported compromised ballot paper from Russia. The intention behind the use of that ballot paper is to negate the expression of the will of Zimbabweans in a manner that I am able to electronically demonstrate. Her insistence in keeping the ballot paper away from everyone but Zanu PF has made me very afraid,” Moyo told the chief Justice.
“The manner in which she designed the ballot paper is a poor attempt at putting ED Mnangagwa into a position of undue advantage and is contrary to the provision of the Law which requires that all details be contained in a single column and not the two that she has settled for.”
He also alleged that she printed the ballot paper without the involvement of other contestants and political parties as had been agreed.
He also said as the umpire of the electoral process, Chigumba “is supposed to be above reproach and must not align herself to or with any political contestants in the upcoming elections.”
“Regrettably … Chigumba has breached this standard by allegedly appearing in public adorned in scarf which is the signature of … Mnangagwa, a contestant in the upcoming elections,” the letter said.
Moyo also said Chigumba presided over the Ross Camp postal ballot scandal.
“The dexterity with which such voting progressed coupled with her failure to ensure that diplomats are able to vote speaks to an evil and illegitimate design in allowing the Ross Camp voting to proceed,” the letter to Malaba said.
Moyo said on July 11 when the MDC Alliance had a demonstration seeking to hand a petition to Zec, “…Chigumba and her commissioners absented themselves, falsely claiming that they were in ‘the field’. That false claim is a new low in her controversy-riddled tenure and has provoked the heavy displeasure of a significant portion of the populace.”
He said in conducting herself in that manner, Chigumba went beneath the conduct expected of a judge.
“Her actions are incendiary in nature and constitute a threat to the peace and security of the country. The abdication by her of her responsibilities amounts when all is considered to a violation of her oath of office,” the letter to Malaba said.
He also accused her of unbridled arrogance “in a most inflammatory and indecorous manner.”
“Zimbabweans expect and are entitled to a lot better from a person entrusted with public constitutional office,” the letter said.
“Regrettably, … Chigumba is so supremely happy in the contemplation of her own excellences that she feels it beneath her dignity to concern herself with the legitimate concerns raised by mortal men,” the letter said.
Chigumba was also accused of misinterpreting the basic provisions of the law “in a manner that suggest that she is grossly ignorant of the law.”
“That calls into question her suitability to remain as a judge. Her erroneous views on clear provisions of the law are so outrageous in their defiance of basic common canons of interpretation and logic that the sustainable impression is given that she has not earned even a basic law degree,” the damning letter said.
“In addition, her conducts reflects poorly on her as a judge. It is in my view in full and clear violation of provision of section 187(1) of the Constitution. Such conduct is cognisable before the JSC and falls well within its mandate. I ask that it may be inquired into.
Moyo said he has proof of every allegation he has made which he said he would be “happy to place it before either the commission or Tribunal that may be set up.”
“At the end of the day, the point to be made is that …Chigumba’s suitability to remain in the esteemed office of a judge is in issue and the matter must be considered in the public interest,” Malaba was told.
“I hope to hear from you. I am gratified in knowing that I have placed this complaint not only before the head of an impeccable judiciary but before a man of unquestionable reputation, who has made it on merit and who will call it as he sees it in the national interest,” the damning letter said.
The Supreme Court acknowledged receipt of the letter yesterday and duly date-stamped it. DailyNews