By Nyashadzashe Ndoro
A UK based former Zimbabwe High Court judge, David Bartlett (67), has withdrawn his application to join the bench sparking speculation he does not want to be associated with the spate of alleged human rights abuses committed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s under-fire administration.
Bartlett, who quit the bench in 2002 during the time the late former President Robert Mugabe was in charge, had applied to be considered for appointment to the Constitutional Court in Zimbabwe.
However Nehanda Radio understands that Bartlett has withdrawn his application after he considered the spate of recent abuses committed by the Mnangagwa regime.
Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and opposition leader Jacob Ngarivhume were arrested in a much condemned crackdown on dissent and spent over 6 weeks in custody. Several other opposition activists were arrested with others being abducted by state agents across the country.
In the UK, Bartlett was appointed an Immigration Adjudicator in 2002 (now known as Judge of the First Tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber). He retired in November 2015.
Nehanda Radio sources confirmed in July this year that Bartlett’s name had been shortlisted by the Judicial Services Commission and under the existing rules he would face public interviews along with other candidates. Mnangagwa would then pick from the interview results.
When Bartlett quit in 2002, he gave no reasons for doing so. But a year before that, four judges, mainly white, quit the bench, while a fifth, Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay was forced to retire.
Under Gubbay, the Supreme Court had ruled that the state sanctioned confiscation of white-owned farms was illegal. Ruling party militants led by Joseph Chinotimba stormed the Supreme Court in December 2000, vowing to drive some judges from office and shouting: “Kill the judges.”
Gubbay was then replaced by Mugabe loyalist, the late Godfrey Chidyausiku who wasted no time in packing the Supreme Court with inexperienced legal practitioners. It came as no surprise the court would later overturn the previous rulings and back the chaotic seizure of white owned farms.
It was Bartlett who summoned Mnangagwa, then Speaker of Parliament, to explain the early release of a convicted bank robber, George Tanyanyiwa Chikanga who claimed to have been related to Mnangagwa.
Leonard Zuze, a former prison inmate told the local Daily News at the time that Chikanga had claimed he was Mnangagwa’s son. However Mnangagwa denied the allegation through his lawyers. He successfully sued the paper and was awarded Z$5 000 000 in damages in June 2004.
It was also Bartlett who ordered the inquiry that led to the successful prosecution and conviction of the late former President Canaan Banana on sexual assault charges in 1999.
When Bartlett quit in 2002, the state owned Herald newspaper said his resignation was “a sign white judges were leaving the bench after realising they were losing grip on the judiciary”.