Luke Malaba, Zimbabwe's Chief Justice
WHILE insisting on returning to work and reporting to the office daily, Chief Justice Luke Malaba, whom the High Court says must retire, is now a lame duck.
Realising that he is on shaky ground, Malaba did not attend the swearing-in ceremony of six Supreme Court judges yesterday.
Deputy Chief Justice Elizabeth Gwaunza presided over the swearing-in ceremony of the new Supreme Court judges, namely Justices George Chiweshe, Samuel Kudya, Alpheous Chitakunye, Felistas Chatukuta, Hlekani Mwayera and Joseph Musakwa.
This comes at a time Malaba is facing contempt of court charges after he last week reported for work despite a High Court ruling declaring that he ceased to be chief justice when he turned 70 on 15 May.
Chiweshe, who was until his promotion the Judge President of the High Court, appointed a three-member bench consisting of Justices Happias Zhou, Jester Charewa and Edith Mushore to hear an application by lawyer Musa Kika joined together with an application by Young Lawyers Association of Zimbabwe and war veteran Fred Mutanda challenging the extension of Malaba’s term beyond 70.
Three of the judges are likely to hear Malaba’s appeal against the High Court ruling.
All Supreme Court judges were cited as respondents in that case, disqualifying them from hearing Malaba’s appeal and creating what lawyers described as a constitutional crisis.
Despite the ruling, Malaba reported for work last week, even after the High Court issued a declaratur.
The ruling threatened to deal a body blow to Mnangagwa’s power consolidation project ahead of the 2023 elections.
The President, as exposed by The NewsHawks in a series of articles, wants Malaba to be the head of the judiciary so that he has an ally in case the 2023 elections are decided in court as was the case with the 2018 polls.
Before the judges heard an application, Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi and the pro-Mnangagwa Judicial Service Commission tried in vain to block the justices from hearing the case, fearing they would scuttle the power consolidation plan.
The JSC questioned why Chiweshe, a war veteran and retired major-general, was not cited in the court application. Chiweshe, seen as Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga’s ally, was the vice-president’s deputy in Zanla’s political commissariat during the liberation struggle.
Mnangagwa’s allies believe Chiweshe was keen on derailing the power consolidation project, hence his appointment of the no-nonsense and brave panel.
Malaba’s refusal to leave office has plunged Zimbabwe’s judiciary into crisis.
Justice Chiweshe’s promotion is seen as an a ploy to remove the influential judge from the High Court so that Mnangagwa seizes control of the court.— STAFF WRITER.
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