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Judge who granted Job Sikhala bail suspended, accused of ‘misconduct’

A High Court judge who recently granted bail to opposition MDC Alliance vice chairman Job Sikhala has been suspended by the Judicial Service Commission headed by Chief Justice Luke Malaba.

Justice Erica Ndewere
Justice Erica Ndewere

According to Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs secretary Virginia Mabhiza, Justice Erica Ndewere is accused of “misconduct and conduct inconsistent with being a judicial officer.”

Ndewere will be facing a tribunal after the Judicial Service Commission recommended to President Mnangagwa to set one up to look into her suitability to hold office.

Sikhala, charged with incitement of violence, was granted bail on appeal by Justice Ndewere on September 22 after spending a month at the notorious Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison.

A day later, on September 23, legal commentator Alex Magaisa said he feared for Ndewere.

Magaisa wrote on Twitter: “Don’t underestimate the courage of the judge who gave Job Sikhala bail. I wouldn’t be surprised if she suffers for it.

“When you do things against the system’s wishes, the system finds something to hit you with. Sooner or later you will hear they are investigating Justice Ndewere for this and that.”

Before delivering her judgement, sources said that Ndewere “avoided the usual procedures and made sure the spies in the judicial structures didn’t have the judgement beforehand.”

Malaba was described as being “very unhappy” at the judge, which would have precipitated her suspension.

According to Magaisa, “individual judges are under pressure” to rule in favour of the government.

This brings to two the number of judges that have allegedly conducted themselves in a manner that constitutes judicial misconduct, and which calls for a tribunal hearing.

Supreme Court judge Justice Bere is on suspension pending the outcome of the tribunal that probed him and is now compiling its report to the President.

Secretary for Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mrs Virginia Mabhiza yesterday confirmed that JSC had referred the matter to President Mnangagwa, the appointing authority, for a judicial tribunal in terms of the Constitution.

“The JSC has referred to the President a recommendation to set up a tribunal to inquire into the question of removal from office of Justice Erica Ndewere, a High Court judge,” she said without giving details of the allegations levelled against the judge.

“A tribunal will be constituted very soon and in terms of the Constitution, the judge will be suspended once the tribunal has been set up.”

Justice Bere’s three-member tribunal chaired by retired judge Justice Simbi Mubako last week completed its inquiry into Justice Bere’s fitness to hold the office of a judge.

However, Justice Bere’s investigations were concluded in his absence after he and his legal team walked out on the proceedings in protest over the tribunal’s refusal to have one of its members, Advocate Takawira Nzombe, recuse himself because of his alleged links to Harare lawyer Mr Itayi Ndudzo, who was a crucial witness in the inquiry.

Justice Bere faced the tribunal on the recommendation of the JSC after Mr Ndudzo accused the judge of interference in a civil case involving the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) and his relatives.

Justice Bere was serving on both the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court benches when he was suspended in March this year.

The tribunal sought to establish whether or not Justice Bere conducted himself improperly in violation of the oath of office and the Constitution by interfering in the matter at the centre of the inquiry.