By John Chimunhu|
Now Daily Analysis|
The blame for the poor performance of Zimbabwe’s judges and the entire judiciary lies squarely with president Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF.
Opening the judicial year recently, chief justice Godfrey Chidyausiku accused the majority of the country’s judges of incompetence and downright laziness.
In fact, it is surprising that it has taken Chidyausiku this long to notice what most Zimbabweans have known for over a decade. Ever since Mugabe started to purge the judiciary of independent judges in 2000, the service has been stripped of any pretence of professionalism. The judges who are there today know why Mugabe appointed them: to safeguard Zanu PF interests and ensure the dictator is not prosecuted if he happens to lose power. This is why Mugabe made a flurry of unconstitutional appointments to both the supreme court and high court benches just before the 2013 elections. It was both a vote-buying act and a succesful bribery operation on the nominated individuals. Stuffing the bench with pliant judges is a ploy used by dictators all over the world to secure a future free of prosecution. The appointments were made without consulting then prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, as required by law. The individuals were handpicked by Mugabe without much input from the Judicial Services Commission as required by law. The rapid pre-election appointments, apart from being rushed, were clearly timed to circumvent the provisions of the new constitution, which requires the JSC to initiate and take full charge of the process of filling vacancies on the bench, with the president coming in to endorse.
Since the purging of the judiciary started, the consensus within the legal fraternity is that the system has become severely compromised both at the personal level of individual judges and at institutional level.
A number of judges have accepted farms seized violently from their white owners while some, like Chinembiri Bhunu and Ben Hlatshwayo illegally invaded the farms themselves.
Because judges are appointed on the basis of allegiance to Mugabe and Zanu PF, many of them are clearly being used as puppets in a political show.
As Tsvangirai’s lawyers said in their 2013 election petition, the “judiciary is not independent from the executive, and politically from Zanu PF”.
“Judges are given political cases to handle by politicians bent on settling personal scores,” lawyer Arnold Tsunga said.
This politicization of the judiciary has led to charges that the rights of citizens are being trampled upon, especially in political cases involving the MDC. Numerous election petitions from Tsvangirai and MDC have not been heard since 2000, although the law says such applications are urgent. Arbitrary arrests of opposition activists are worsened by judges who deny them bail and keep them in prison for a long time as extra-judicial punishment.
Chidyausiku mentioned that judges endure poor conditions of service. These poverty conditions can not be expected to encourage anyone to work hard.
It is also documented by Transparency International that the Zimbabwean judiciary is corrupt. Is it any surprise that some of these Zanu PF functionaries posing as judges are too busy chasing after bribes to write any judgements and ensure justice is served?
Chidyausiku can not and should not be allowed to get away with this frightening collapse of our judicial service. Where was he when these errant judges were dodging their responsibilies? It is his duty, for which we, the taxpayers, pay him, to supervise other judges and ensure they do their work correctly. We expect Chidyausiku to do his job and produce tangible results, by swiftly dispensing justice, instead of complaining that some judges are not working.
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