By Daniel Nemukuyu
Two new Supreme Court judges – Justices Francis Bere and Lavender Makoni – yesterday took the judicial oath before Chief Justice Luke Malaba in Harare.
The pair vowed to be faithful to Zimbabwe and to administer justice to all people without fear or favour.
Speaking on the sidelines of the colourful event, Chief Justice Malaba hailed the appointment of the two judges to the highest court of appeal, saying it would go a long way in easing pressure on the bench.
The Judiciary boss said the bench remained understaffed considering that the Judicial Service Commission had advertised four vacant posts when public interviews were conducted.
At least four more judges, according to the Chief Justice, are still required to the Supreme Court bench.
“We are very grateful for the appointment of the two judges to the Supreme Court. We have been looking forward to this happening for some time.
“However, we still require more judges for the Supreme Court. In 2016, we declared four vacant posts, but unfortunately we got only eight nominees for the public interviews. We were supposed to forward to the President three names for every vacancy, but we ended up submitting only eight, the total number of the candidates who participated in the interviews.
“The President, using his discretion only picked two names from the list of eight. This was because his freedom of choice was limited. It is on that basis that we have two new judges, instead of four,” he said.
Chief Justice Malaba said the President had the discretion to appoint anyone he deems fit for the posts from the list forwarded to him after the interviews.
“The President has the discretion to pick whoever from the list forwarded to him and the candidates’ ratings by JSC are not binding on him.
“The ultimate decision lies with the President and we respect his choice,” he said.
In an interview, Justice Bere could not hide his joy, saying the elevation was a reward for hard work and honesty.
“It is a culmination of 14 solid years of hard and honest work. It is every judge’s dream to be elevated to the Supreme Court because it is the apex of the Judiciary.
“ I am looking forward to a new challenge,” he said.
Justice Makoni said the JSC was striving to comply with the constitutional requirements of gender balance by considering women as judges of the Supreme Court.
“I am very elated and excited. The appointment has been in the pipeline for about 18 months when we were interviewed. JSC is trying hard to comply with the Constitution regarding gender.
“At the Supreme Court, there is a balance of male and female judges.
“However, at the High Court, women are still fewer than men. With time, I hope to see gender balance as well at the High Court,” she said.
Justices Bere and Makoni were among eight High Court judges who were interviewed for the vacant posts of Supreme Court judges in 2016.
The eight – six men and two women – were interviewed on September 29, 2016. The other judges who participated in the interviews were: Justices Priscilla Chigumba, Alfas Chitakunye, Charles Hungwe, Samuel Kudya, Joseph Mafusire and Nicholas Mathonsi.
Justice Makoni has served as a High Court judge for 16 years before the latest elevation to the Supreme Court.
Justice Makoni was now a senior judge-in-charge of the High Court’s civil division based in Harare.
Prior to her joining the Judiciary, Justice Makoni practised as a legal practitioner and founded Makoni Legal Practice. She also served as a law officer in the Attorney-General’s Office for 12 years.
Justice Bere was appointed to the High Court bench in 2004 and worked in Harare. Prior to his appointment to the High Court bench, Justice Bere served as a judge of the Administrative Court for four years. At the time of his appointment to the Supreme Court, he was now senior judge-in-charge of the High Court in Bulawayo.
Justice Bere started off as a teacher and worked at three schools in Murehwa, Mutoko and Bindura in the 1980s.
He joined the magistracy in July 1990.
Justice Bere then practised as a legal practitioner with Bere & Associates Legal Practitioners from 1993 to 2000.
The Judiciary is in the process of legally and administratively separating the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court by 2020. The Herald