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Judgment on Justice Bere’s legal challenge reserved

By Fidelis Munyoro

The High Court has reserved judgment on the challenge made by suspended Supreme Court judge Justice Francis Bere over the legality of the tribunal set up to determine his fitness to hold office after a lawyer accused him of trying to influence a civil case.

Former Bulawayo High Court senior judge, Justice Francis Bere
Justice Francis Bere

Justice Bere, who is represented by Professor Lovemore Madhuku, wants to set-aside the Judicial Service Commission’s (JSC) decision to refer his case to President recommending an inquiry into his alleged misconduct.

President Mnangagwa appointed a three-member panel chaired by retired judge Justice Simbi Mubako to probe Justice Bere, following the JSC recommendations. The other two are Harare lawyer Mrs Rekayi Maphosa and Advocate Takawira Nzombe.

Justice Benjamin Chikowero on Tuesday heard the challenge in the High Court and reserved his ruling to a later date, after both parties’ legal counsel made their submissions.

Prof Madhuku yesterday said they were now waiting for the court’s decision.

The hearing before the tribunal scheduled for the same day had to be postponed, but the inquiry is expected to resume next month.

“Our next appearance before the tribunal is on Monday 3 August,” said Prof Madhuku.

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 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, seeking to invalidate Proclamation 1 of 2020, the legal instrument issued by President Mnangagwa, at the request of the Judicial Service Commission, to set up the tribunal. Justice Bere, 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) boss 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