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Justice Bere hearing deferred again

The resumption of the inquiry into misconduct allegations against suspended Supreme Court Judge, Justice Francis Bere, has been deferred again to next week.

Supreme Court judge, Justice Francis Bere, speaks to his lawyer Advocate Girach Firoz (left) at the High Court in Harare yesterday
File picture of Supreme Court judge, Justice Francis Bere, speaks to his lawyer Advocate Girach Firoz (left) at the High Court in Harare

The tribunal had convened yesterday to resume the hearing, but the prosecutors in the case applied to have the matter deferred to Tuesday next week, the same day the High Court is expected to hear the judge’s application challenging the legality of the tribunal set up to inquire into his misconduct allegation. Bere’s defence team did not oppose the postponement.

His lawyer, Professor Lovemore Madhuku, confirmed the postponement.

“The tribunal hearing has been postponed to Tuesday July 28, 2020 at the request of the evidence leaders (prosecutors),” he said. “Meanwhile, the main matter challenging the setting up of the Tribunal itself has been allocated to Justice (Benjamin) Chikowero and will be heard on the same day (July 28, 2020).”

Justice Chikowero took over after fellow judge Justice Jester Charewa, who had previously handled two separate applications brought by Justice Bere in the battle to quash the tribunal proceedings, recused herself from the case last week.

Only last month, the tribunal stopped its proceedings until the High Court has ruled on a defence application to review a tribunal decision not to delay the hearing.

Justice Bere wants the tribunal proceedings to be stayed until the legal issue is decided. The tribunal refused to do this, but after the judge filed a review application of the tribunal decision rejecting his objection to the inquiry, Justice Simbi Mubako, who is chairing the inquiry, agreed to halt proceedings until the application to review the earlier decision not to delay matters further had been dealt with.

Justice Bere is being charged with three counts of improper conduct after a Harare lawyer accused him of interfering in a civil case.

He denied the charges, before challenging the whole tribunal process, seeking to invalidate Proclamation 1 of 2020, the legal instrument, which was issued by President Mnangagwa, at the request of the Judicial Service Commission, established the tribunal.

The judge, who was serving on both the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court benches, was suspended in March this year, pending a probe into potential misconduct.

He is accused of meddling in a civil case involving the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (zinara) and his relatives. Justice Bere allegedly telephoned Mr Itai Ndudzo, who was representing zinara, asking him to consider settling a civil dispute pitting zinara against 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.

In his defence, Justice Bere claimed 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 record. The Herald