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High Court hears Mtetwa application for release of judges’ interview results

High Court judge Justice Sunsley Zisengwe on Tuesday presided over the hearing of an application filed by human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa demanding the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and President Emmerson Mnangagwa to release results of interviews held six years ago for Supreme Court judges.

In 2016, eight High Court judges, who include Justices Charles Hungwe, Lavender Makoni, Alfas Chitakunye, Francis Bere, Samuel Kudya, Nicholas Mathonsi, Joseph Mafusire and Priscilla Chigumba, were interviewed to fill four vacancies on the Supreme Court bench.

But only two new Supreme Court judges, Justices Francis Bere and Lavender Makoni, who were at the High Court, were sworn in May 2018.

Mtetwa, in her application, said one Munamato Mutevedzi of the JSC declined to release the scoresheet on the basis that it was “confidential”.

The top lawyer wants the results to be made public to “promote transparency”.

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has confirmed that in Masvingo, the High Court will be hearing the matter.

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“ZLHR Court Diary: In Masvingo, Justice Zisengwe is hearing application filed by human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa seeking to compel @JSCZim and President Mnangagwa to produce scoresheet in respect of each candidate interviewed on 29 September 2016 for 4 Supreme Court vacancies,” ZLHR said.

“Mtetwa argues that release of the results of the judges interviews is of national importance. She also wants @JSCZim to release a dated copy of list of qualified nominees matching in number the advertised vacancies plus any or all correspondence exchanged between JSC and Mnangagwa

“Mtetwa also argues that it is improper to conduct interviews and yet the best performing candidates are overlooked. She states that that wasn’t the intention of the legislature when it endorsed holding of public interviews for appointment of judges. She argues that the best performing woman or man must be appointed.”

Mtetwa is represented by Advocate Tererai Mafukidze.

In her application filed in June 2018, Mtetwa said the JSC should produce the scoresheets in respect of each candidate interviewed on September 29, 2016 for the four Supreme Court vacancies, a dated copy of the list of qualified nominees matching in number the advertised vacancies, plus two and any and all correspondence exchanged between the JSC and Mnangagwa between September 29, 2016 and May 11, 2018.

She has also demanded that Mnangagwa appoints from the list submitted to him by the JSC the two remaining judges to fill the four vacancies in order of their ranking on the list submitted to him.

The JSC, however, filed an opposing affidavit accusing Mtetwa of failing to recognise that in terms of Section 11 of the Administrative Justice Act Chapter 10:28, the appointment of judicial offices did not constitute an exercise of an administrative function as contemplated in her founding affidavit.

“The applicant is ill-advised, both as regards her understanding of the law and her rights with respect to the present application. I aver that on a proper interpretation of the law, her application may be dismissed with costs on a legal and practitioner scale as prayed on this basis alone, as it is no more than an exercise in futility,” the JSC argues. Nehanda Radio