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JSC given ultimatum to disclose 10 judges interview scorecards

Former Zimbabwe National Students Union (Zinasu) president has given the JSC seven days to provide CVs and scoresheets of interview



Former University of Zimbabwe SRC president Allan Chipoyi has given the Judicial Service Commission seven days to provide curriculum vitaes and scoresheets of interviews of the recently-appointed judges who came into office amid complaints that some of them did not pass the interviews, failed to pay debts and had corruption charges hanging over their heads.

On 18 June, about 12 High Court judges were sworn in by Chief Justice Luke Malaba at a ceremony that was held at the Constitutional Court in Harare, among them Justice Garainesu Mawadze who is now Deputy Judge President of the High Court, deputising Justice Mary Zimba-Dube.

The 10 new members of the High Court bench are Justice Faith Mushure, Justice Ngoni Nduna, Justice Regis Demure, Justice Phillipa Phillips, Justice Gibson Mandaza, Justice Joel Mambara, Justice Naison Chivayo, Justice Vivian Ndlovu, Justice Sijabuliso Siziba and Justice Mpokiseng Dube.

Justice Maxwell Kaitano was appointed Administrative Court judge. Currently, the High Court has 68 judges, while the judiciary has more than 80 judges.

However, Chipoyi, through his lawyers Kadzere, Hungwe & Matevere Legal Practitioners, has requested access to the scoresheets used during the process for assessment.

“We write to you on the instructions of Allan Chipoyi who is an adult male Zimbabwean. We are instructed and accept as common cause that the Commission recently held public interviews of various members of the legal profession to fill 10 vacancies to the office of judge of the High Court,” reads the letter.

“The public interviews drew a lot of interest from a vast number of Zimbabweans who followed same on social media and television. The interviews were broadcast live. Like all other citizens, our client followed with keen interest the said public interviews and despite a layman himself, he was able to formulate his own objective assessment of the performance of the candidates that were publicly interviewed.”

Chipoyi said access to material used during the public interviews is crucial for accountability and transparency.

“We believe the Judicial Service Commission did deliberate and grade each candidate’s performance in the interviews. We understand that 10 successful candidates have now been sworn into office as judges of the High Court,” it reads.

“In the public interest and in order to promote public accountability, fairness, transparency and good governance of public institutions (the Judicial Service Commission included) we have been instructed to request that the Judicial Service Commission furnish us with the following:

“The scoresheet/grading of all the persons publicly interviewed, the curriculum vitaes of all the persons publicly interviewed. We make the above request in terms of Section 62 (1) of the Constitution as read with section 7 (1) of the Freedom of Information Act [Chapter 10:33]. We look forward to hearing from you within the next seven working days and anticipate your co-operation in the interest of public accountability.”

According to section 62 of the national constitution, every Zimbabwean or permanent resident, including juristic persons and the Zimbabwean media, has the right to access any information held by state or by any institution or agency of government at every level, in so far as the information is required of public accountability. Zimbabwe’s judiciary has been under scrutiny, with human rights defenders calling it out for being used as a tool in lawfare against the opposition, while cementing the ruling Zanu PF’s stay in power.

Last year, the gifting of US$400 000 housing loans to judges raised eyebrows, underlining the executive’s keenness to extend favours to the judiciary, particularly during elections, as they play a key role in mediating disputes.

While judges were extended US$400 000 loans each to buy property, the arrangement had initially been tailor made for Chief Justice Malaba and his deputy Elizabeth Gwaunza.

The 2018 presidential election was adjudicated by the Constitutional Court which found for President Emmerson Mnangagwa after Chief Justice Malaba controversially threw out a challenge to the poll result by main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa.

In 2020, through Constitutional Amendments No. 1 and 2, President Mnangagwa did all he could to ensure that Malaba retains office, despite having reached retirement age.

Generally, judges are well looked after, and they get top-of-the-range luxury cars.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s integrity is also facing a litmus test with him violating his constitutional obligation to establish a tribunal to investigate the suitability of Justice Webster Chinamora of the Harare High Court, to continue holding office following allegations of misconduct.

Early last year, Advocate Thabani Mpofu filed a complaint against Chinamora after another attorney, Advocate Taona Nyamakura, lodged a complaint against the judge for alleged conflict of interest in a legal dispute between Zimbabwe’s Delta Beverages (Pvt) Ltd, Schweppes Zimbabwe Ltd and Blakey Plastics (Pty) Ltd, a South African company.

While a panel set up by the JSC to review the complaint comprising judges Anne-Marie Gowora, Alfas Chitakunye and Custom Kachambwa concluded that Chinamora has a case to answer, the tribunal has not been instituted.

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