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Mnangagwa sets tribunal for sex-scandal accused Justice Mabhikwa

By Nyashadzashe Ndoro | Nehanda Courts |

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has established a tribunal, chaired by Retired Justice Maphios Cheda, to inquire into the removal of Justice Thompson James Mabhikwa, after a sex scandal that saw the leaking of his nude photos and raunchy WhatsApp messages with a subordinate.

Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Thompson Mabhikwa
Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Thompson Mabhikwa

At the occasion, Mnangagwa also received from a Tribunal which was set last year to investigate misconduct allegations against suspended High Court judge Justice Erica Ndewere, who many feel is being punished for granting bail to opposition MDC Alliance Vice Chairman Job Sikhala.

Justice Ministry Permanent Secretary Virginia Mabiza confirmed:

“They formerly handed the report, as you may be aware, the President put in place a tribunal to enquire into the contact of Justice Ndewere, they have finished their work and today they have presented their findings, I will not go into details because that is not my mandate, the Chief Secretary will make the announcements,” she said.

Mabhikwa and a member of the support staff, Oratile Nare, were placed under probe by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) in February this year after nude pictures and raunchy WhatsApp messages, allegedly from the judge’s phone.

Allegations are, Justice Mabhikwa and Nare, an assistant of fellow Bulawayo judge, Justice Maxwell Takuva have been in an intimate relationship and that Nare became jealous after suspecting her lover had another girlfriend and she allegedly forwarded the judge’s exchanges with the other woman to all his contacts, including a judges’ WhatsApp group.

It is alleged that Nare had gone through Justice Mabhikwa’s phone sometime during the night in February while the judge was asleep and she discovered that he had sent pictures of his manhood to another woman only identified as Petty or Patie who was also exchanging pictures of her privates with the judge.

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The pictures impressed Justice Mabhikwa who promised her a hot intimate session, “Okay, ntambama ngizaluphosa ke (‘I will throw it (manhood) in then’, Ndebele slang for lovemaking)” Petty or Patie’s reply: “Ngizakunika. Uphose vele (I will give it to you. You have to fu** me).”

Justice Mabhikwa is widowed after his wife died in December last year.

On Monday, Mnangagwa swore in a three persons Tribunal to investigate allegations of misconduct against Justice Mabhikwa.

The investigation panel will be chaired by Justice Cheda, Mr Chaka Mashoko, a Lecturer of Procedural Law and Advocate Phillipa Magnify Philips, a practising lawyer.

Mnangagwa said the panel should investigate whether Justice Mabhikwa’s conduct “can be deemed to have been tantamount to gross misconduct.”

He also proclaimed that the Tribunal should “investigate whether or not the Honourable Justice Mabhikwa (a) committed acts of sexual harassment (b) possessed pornographic material… and to investigate any other matter which the tribunal may deem appropriate and relevant to the question of removal from office of a judge in terms of the law” and report the findings of its inquiry within three months with a recommendation “on whether the Honourable Judge is fit to hold office.”

Justice Erica Ndewere and Chief Justice Luke Malaba
Justice Erica Ndewere and Chief Justice Luke Malaba

Meanwhile, the suspension of Justice Ndewere last year raised eyebrows after she was accused of “misconduct and conduct inconsistent with being a judicial officer” by the Judiciary Service Commission (JSC), three weeks after she had granted Sikhala bail in a case he is facing charges of allegations of inciting public violence in connection with 31st July protests against corruption.

Justice Ndewere’s ruling was not popular with many Zanu PF elites. Observers argued that the ruling prompted ‘the persecution of Justice Ndewere by the Zanu PF administration’.

In her judgement, Ndewere castigated the Magistrates Court for denying Sikhala bail saying; “clearly the misdirection by the lower court was so astonishing.” Nehanda Radio