- Chidyausiku with Mugabe.
Chief justice Godfrey Chidyausiku has retired amid confusion over who will succeed him, ending a term marked by open bias, corruption and disorder in the court.
Chidyausiku’s tenure ended on February 28 2017 and could not be renewed as he has reached 70, the retirement age for judges.
Under Chidyausiku judges, magistrates and prosecutors openly took bribes and Zimbabwe’s judiciary was ranked among the most corrupt in Africa in a survey by Afrobarometer, research firm based in South Africa.
Chidyausiku publicly admitted that he was biased in favour of Mugabe’s Zanu PF party militias who illegally invaded commercial farms starting in 2000. He admitted that Zanu PF’s land invasion was illegal before the Land Acquisition Act was cobbled up. The matter had divided the judiciary, he said, and resulted in the ‘unfair’ removal of some judges.
The chief justice sensationally claimed in January 2017 that president Robert Mugabe did not issue an executive order barring the Judicial Service Commission from holding interviews for his replacement.
Interviews to select a new chief justice were abandoned amid acrimony in December 2016 after characters in Mugabe’s office presented the JSC with what they claimed was an ‘executive order’ signed by the dictator halting the process. The government has since presented to Parliament a new Chief Justice Bill which seeks to end the current system of public interviews of candidates by the Judicial Service Commission. The new law will give Mugabe powers to single-handedly appoint a chief justice and other senior court officials, according to critics.
“I’ve since established that the president never issued an executive order to stop the interviews,” Chidyausiku said.
The incident has sparked controversy on who really is in charge in Mugabe’s office with analysts claiming that the president had ceded control to his deputies because of his advanced age and frequent absences from the country. Mugabe has made it a habit to travel outside the country nearly every week, leaving his deputies in charge.
“This clearly demonstrates that Mugabe has lost control of his government,” political analyst Chris Mitchell told Now Daily. “Otherwise how does something as important as an executive order signed in his office and then goes to the public without him knowing?”
Sources said the appointment of a new head of the judiciary has been scuppered by factional fights within Zanu PF. State officials want deputy chief justice Luke Malaba to take over in an acting capacity until the next presidential elections in 2018, a move that would ensure that he is insecure and cannot make any fundamental decisions.
Chidyausiku’s act will be hard to follow as he was known to follow Mugabe’s directives to the letter and was reputed to protect Zanu PF interests.
MDC Zimbabwe ex-Bulawayo senator, lawyer and former education minister David Coltart wrote in the autobiographical book, The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in Zimbabwe, that Chidyausiku was “to be Mugabe’s trump card when he became Chief Justice, providing him with a legal fig leaf in the face of gross violations of Zimbabwe’s Constitution”.
Chidyausiku was appointed deputy minister of local government by Mugabe in 1982, after serving as an MP in the Rhodesian parliament from 1974 where, according to Coltart, “he was chastised for wearing a psychedelic suit”.
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