Suspended High Court judge Justice Erica Ndewere’s hearing on misconduct charges commenced in Harare yesterday with her lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, challenging the appointment of Justice ministry permanent secretary Virginia Mabhiza as secretary of the tribunal.
Mtetwa said Mabhiza was a member of the Executive who was highly likely to influence the proceedings.
She added that it would be a miscarriage of justice for members of the Executive to involve themselves in matters to do with employment or dismissal of members of the judiciary.
Justice Ndewere is facing allegations of gross misconduct in the performance of her duties, but she accuses Chief Justice Luke Malaba of raising the charges to “fix” her after she defied his “unlawful order” in cases involving bail for former Labour minister Priscah Mupfumira and opposition MDC Alliance vice-chairperson Job Sikhala.
“Chapter 1 and section 2 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe requires government and all public agencies to observe the principle of separation of powers and to promote independence of the Judiciary,” Mtetwa argued.
“The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has its own secretariat that is capable of handling the secretarial function and Mabhiza should not control the tribunal or secretariat, or handle any documents which have to do with the employment and dismissal of a judge.”
She also argued that Mabhiza previously issued an incorrect Press statement stating that Justice Ndewere could be suspended without pay and benefits, which was actually the function of the JSC.
Justice Ndewere’s lawyer said another prosecutor should be appointed to lead evidence as the chief law officer from the Attorney-General’s Office who represented Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi to oppose her client’s initial chamber application was conflicted as he took instructions from the Executive.
Mtetwa also argued that the complaints against Justice Ndewere were raised by Chief Justice Malaba personally, contrary to the Code of Conduct Statutory Instrument S2012-107 which stipulated that in the event that a judicial officer conducted themselves in a manner that appeared to violate the provisions of the Code, then the Chief Justice must appoint a disciplinary
She proposed the deferment of the tribunal until the outcome of the hearing set down by the High Court for today.
The sitting of the tribunal was then adjourned sine die. News Day