Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Court gives JSC 15-day ultimatum

By Fidelis Munyoro

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has been given 15 days to file heads of argument for the case in which it is challenging the High Court decision to stop public interviews to choose the country’s next Chief Justice.

File picture of judges during a procession in the capital Harare
File picture of judges during a procession in the capital Harare

In a letter written to JSC lawyers, Messrs Kantor and Immerman on Tuesday, the superior court said upon failure to comply with the instruction, the appeal would be deemed as abandoned. According to the letter, the records of appeal were received at the Supreme Court on the same day.

“I now call upon you to file heads of argument within 15 business days from the date of service of this letter,” reads the letter. “Please note that if you fail to comply with the above, the appeal shall be regarded as abandoned and shall be deemed dismissed.”

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The letter was also copied to lawyers Messrs Venturas and Samukange, who are acting for University of Zimbabwe student Romeo Taombera Zibani, who won the case to stop public interviews for the Chief Justice of Zimbabwe in the High Court recently.

Zibani, a fourth-year law student, successfully challenged the JSC’s decision to conduct public interviews for the post of Chief Justice, pending the amendment of the Constitution.

JSC appealed to the Supreme Court and proceeded with the interviews.

Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba, JSC secretary and Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairperson Justice Rita Makarau and senior judge at the apex court Justice Paddington Garwe were interviewed. After the interviews, Government gazetted Constitutional Amendment Bill No. 1 of 2016 published in the General Notice 434 of 2016.

The Bill seeks to amend Section 180 of the Constitution and do away with the conducting of public interviews to select candidates for the esteemed posts of Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice and Judge President of the High Court.

Once the Bill becomes law, President Mugabe will have unfettered discretion to appoint his choice whenever such vacancies arise.

Government last month said it was amending the Constitution on the appointment of the Chief Justice after finding itself in an awkward position in which senior members of the JSC tasked with conducting the interviews ended up being the candidates.

Secretary for Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mrs Virginia Mabhiza said the drafters of the supreme law, which came into effect in 2013, failed to recognise a situation whereby those expected to conduct the interviews would become aspirants.

This, she said, made the procedure for the interviewing of judges by the JSC inappropriate as junior members of the commission ended up being tasked with determining the suitability of their seniors. The Herald