By Fidelis Munyoro
The defence team of suspended Supreme Court Judge Justice Francis Bere walked out of the inquiry last week protesting over the rejection of a request to have one of the tribunal members to recuse himself from the matter because of his alleged connection to the key witness.
The lawyers were also not content with a further six months extension of the tribunal, following the expiry of the given four months..
Justice Bere appeared before the tribunal set up to inquire into his fitness to hold office on Thursday after the High Court ruled last week on Tuesday that the Judicial Service Commission’s advice to President Mnangagwa to initiate the tribunal was in line with the dictates of the law.
Lead defence counsel Advocate Firoz Girach, Advocate Lewis Uriri and Prof Lovemore Madhuku walked out of the hearing protesting over what they claimed to be a “violation of legal procedure”.
The drama started when the tribunal convened for the reading of the allegations of misconduct against Justice Bere.
The defence team requested for recusal of Advocate Takawira Nzombe on the basis that he was known to key witness Mr Itayi Ndudzo, who is at the centre of the judge’s misconduct allegations.
But the tribunal tossed out the request for lack of merit as it did not establish the degree of apprehension of bias that could not warrant a member of the tribunal to recuse himself.
Earlier on the defence had unsuccessfully challenged the lifespan of the tribunal, to hear evidence. It was noted that “paragraph d” of the Proclamation 1 of 2020 contradicted “paragraph f” of the same as it was apparent on the face of the Proclamation that there was a typographical error which, has since been corrected by General Notice 2090 0f 2020.
However, at the commencement of the hearing on Wednesday of last week, Justice Bere’s legal team walked out of the proceedings of the of the tribunal, citing that the correction of the error “is null and void” because it was done out of time, which the JSC argued is incorrect.
Prof Madhuku confirmed the development protesting over the manner, the tribunal was handling the matter.
“We cannot allow the tribunal to violate legal procedures,” said Prof Madhuku without defining their next move.
Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Permanent Secretary Mrs Virginia Mabhiza confirmed the development.
“It would appear lawyers for the judge are determined to avoid the hearing at any cost making one application after another in both the High Court and before the Tribunal,” she said.
“The tribunal has seen it fit and proper to continue with investigations in the absence of Justice Bere.”
The President set up the tribunal inquiry into the fitness of the Supreme Court judge to hold office after a lawyer accused him of interference in a civil case.
Justice Bere was serving on both the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court benches when he was suspended in March this year.
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 Enterprise. The Herald