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“Keep halls of justice clean”: Mnangagwa tells ‘corrupt’ court officials

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has warned court officials against engaging in corrupt activities following an admission by some magistrates that the judiciary seems to have been captured by politicians.

In October last year, some magistrates who preferred anonymity presumably to avoid intimidation, wrote a damning open letter to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) and the Auditor-General accusing Chief Justice Luke Malaba of using “his henchman”, the JSC secretary Walter Chikwana to interfere with magistrates’ rulings and determining who gets bail or not.

“The capture of the judiciary by politicians has reached such high decibels that those of us who are magistrates are now embarrassed to even disclose our professions.

“We have become objects of derision not only in the streets but also in the courts where it is clear that even litigants no longer have respect for our courts and our authority,” read part of the letter.

The newly commissioned Epworth Magistrates Court
The newly commissioned Epworth Magistrates Court

Accordingly, while officially opening the Epworth Magistrates’ Court in Harare, Mnangagwa urged court officials to shun corruption to inspire confidence in people.

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“Under my administration, the integrity of the Judiciary remains key towards deepening constitutionalism, the rule of law and ensuring functional as well as productive communities. Hence, let us continue to foster a corrupt-free, proficient and effective judicial system, which we are all proud of.

“I urge judicial officers and legal practitioners, among others, to keep the halls of justice clean by shunning and resisting corruption in all facets. The offices of judges and magistrates are sacred. Integrity, fairness and probity of these officials should thus always inspire the confidence of our people.”

In their letter last year, magistrates also raised the issue of poor remuneration. They said this is happening when JSC top officials are getting hefty salaries and allowances.

“Magistrates are currently remunerated at such low levels across the board that the public would be embarrassed to even know the figures. Only those magistrates in the Anti-Corruption courts receive undisclosed extra remunerations in addition to being given motor vehicles.

“These salaries are well below what a judicial officer should earn to sustain a lifestyle expected of this office. These salaries should be contrasted against the opulence displayed by those in high positions within the JSC.”