By Nyashadzashe Ndoro | Nehanda Politics |
President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Wednesday swore in a three-member tribunal led by retired judge Justice Simbi Mubako to inquire into the fitness of suspended High Court judge, Justice Erica Ndewere, who many believe is being persecuted for granting bail to Job Sikhala.
The other members are lawyers Mr Charles Warara and Ms Yvonne Masvora. The three member Tribunal is expected to run for five months, investigating whether Ndewere is fit to hold office.
High Court Judge Justice Erica Ndewere who recently granted bail to MDC Alliance Vice Chairman Job Sikhala has been suspended after she was simply accused of “misconduct and conduct inconsistent with being a judicial officer” by the Judiciary Service Commission (JSC)
Addressing journalists after the swearing-in of the tribunal, Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi accused Ndewere of seeking sympathy of the media before due process.
“This is exactly what the President has done and I believe it is very good for the judicial system.
“The whole reason why a tribunal is being set up is for the judge to subject herself to it and explain herself. But obviously she chose to play to the gallery and go to the media when the due process is very clear.
“It was not right for the judge to grandstand, but to subject herself to the due process and allow that process to be completed,” he said.
Ndewere presided on the bail judgment of Sikhala who was arrested in connection with 31st July protests against corruption and charged with inciting violence.
In her judgement, Ndewere castigated the magistrate Court for denying Sikhala bail saying; “clearly the misdirection by the lower court was so astonishing.”
The suspension of Ndewere comes barely three weeks after Sikhala’s bail ruling which was not popular with the Zanu PF bigwigs.
Observers have since argued she was being persecuted by Mnangagwa’s regime for granting the prominent opposition leader bail.
Speaking soon after the “landmark” ruling, Sikhala said, “that judgement is going to be one of the greatest judgements delivered in our country. It’s going to be reported even in foreign law reports.”
In a statement, JSC said allegations against the judge arose 11 months ago, long before Sikhala made a bail application at the High Court in September this year but it did not disclose what the allegations were.
“Formal investigation into the allegations of the Judge’s misconduct commenced on 12 March 2020 and on the 6th of May, the Judge formally responded to the allegations.
“On the 11th of September, the allegations against the judge were referred for consideration by the JSC in terms of Section 187 (3) of the Constitution.
“This again was before the judgement in respect of Hon Job Sikhala’s bail application had been made.
“The court’s decision on Honourable Job Sikhala’s bail application was only handed down on the 22nd September 2020, eleven months after the allegations against the Judge had risen and six months after the formal investigations had commenced.
“It is important to note that in all the deliberations and decisions relating to the allegations against the Judge by the JSC in the Chief Justice and the Judge President of the High Court did not participate because they were involved in the initial investigations on the allegations made against the Judge.
“The synopsis of events given above shows that there was no connection between the two decisions by the JSC and that of the Judge in Hon Sikhala’s matter.
“It is therefore unfortunate for one to attempt to link the genuine accountability process that the Hon Judge is going through with the decisions that the judge made in court.
“The JSC respects and indeed makes every effort to protect the independence of the judiciary.
“This is a Constitutional imperative which we will always adhere to.
Justice Ndewere of the Harare High Court is accused of “misconduct and conduct inconsistent with being a judicial officer,” read the statement.
Recently, Mnangagwa set up the tribunal inquiry into the fitness of Supreme Court Judge Justice Francis Bere to hold office after a lawyer accused him of interference in a civil case involving the Zimbabwe National Road Administration and his relatives.
He has since been fired by the Zanu PF leader after he was found unfit to hold the office by the tribunal. Nehanda Radio