By Fidelis Munyoro
Suspended Supreme Court judge Justice Francis Bere is today expected to appear before a tribunal to answer to the charges of misconduct after his last-minute bid to stop the hearing failed yesterday when the High Court found that the latest attempt to delay the hearing was not an urgent matter.
A three-member tribunal led by retired Justice Simbi Mubako will inquire into the judge’s fitness to hold office, after a lawyer accused him of interference in a civil case.
He is denying the allegations made against him. Lawyer Mr Itai Ndudzo complained about the interference.
Yesterday, the High Court rejected as urgent his latest application in which he was seeking an order allowing him to file his papers within the time he wished, while at the same time staying the tribunal process.
Justice Jesta Charewa agreed that Justice Bere had the right to request an expedited hearing of his matter and to challenge the propriety of the process that led to setting up of the tribunal to investigate him,
But the question before her was whether he could come to court at the eleventh hour to assert rights as a matter of urgency that had accrued to him long before now.
She did not think so and removed the matter from the roll of urgent matters.
Having lost his two previous urgent applications, Justice Charewa said, the suspended judge was trying to achieve what he failed to obtain when he sought an interdict to stop lawful process in his previous urgent applications.
“What the applicant seeks to achieve is to have multiple bites of the cherry when he failed to harness all his claims on the day of reckoning,” she said.
Justice Bere was serving on both the Constitutional and Supreme Court benches when he was suspended in March this year, pending a probe into potential misconduct
Since his suspension Justice Bere has approached the High Court three times, including yesterday’s hearing, seeking as a matter of urgency an order staying the inquiry into his alleged misconduct.
The other two members of the tribunal to probe Justice Bere are Harare lawyer Mrs Rekayi Maphosa and Advocate Takawira Nzombe.
Last month, High Court judge Justice Alfas Chitakunye declined Justice Bere’s request for an urgent hearing of his application challenging the Judicial Service Commission’s the decision to refer his case to President Mnangagwa, recommending an inquiry into his alleged misconduct.
The finding of non-urgency paved the way for the tribunal to sit and make the inquiry into the judge’s misconduct allegations.
Justice Bere is accused of meddling in a civil case involving the Zimbabwe National Road Administration and his relatives. Justice Bere allegedly telephoned Mr Ndudzo, who was representing Zinara, asking him to consider settling a civil dispute pitting Zinara and Fremus Enterprises.
Complaints against him were raised before Deputy Chief Justice Elizabeth Gwaunza during a court hearing and Mr Ndudzo was asked to make the complaint in writing.
Justice Bere denied the allegations. In a response to the JSC, the judge, said he only contacted Mr Ndudzo in the context of their personal relationship dating back to the days when they were both members of the Zimbabwe Football Association Ethics Committee. He described the complaint as a falsehood meant to taint his clean record.
In January last year, a panel of four judges appointed by Chief Justice Luke Malaba looked into Justice Bere’s conduct after Mr Moxon filed a complaint alleging conflict of interest in a case the judge had presided over.
The four-member Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee chaired by then Constitutional and Supreme Court judge Justice Rita Makarau cleared Justice Bere of any wrongdoing. The Herald