THE Reserve Bank has reportedly allocated houses it built in Westgate, Harare, under the Homelink Housing Development Scheme, to High Court and Supreme Court judges.
The central bank is also believed to be paying salary top-ups to the judges. Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) president Beatrice Mtetwa told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that the lawyersâ€™ governing body had received information that the bank had allocated the villas and was also paying judges.
“As the Law Society we believe that judges should be properly remunerated, but we donâ€™t believe that the remuneration should come from the Reserve Bank in terms of the law,” she said.
Mtetwa said the central bank was making the judiciary open to abuse and this could compromise the administration of justice.
“We are concerned because some of the goods that were donated to the judges like plasma television sets are unrelated to a judgeâ€™s core-business,” Mtetwa said.
The alleged allocation of villas came barely a week after state media said the central bank had allocated new vehicles, generators, plasma-screen television sets and full sets of satellite dishes to the judiciary as a way of improving the judgesâ€™ conditions of service.
The media reports said the bank had also funded the acquisition of 16 top of the range Mercedes-Benz E280 sedans.
The Constitution of Zimbabwe states that the remuneration of judges should be charged on the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Section 88 (1) of the constitution states: “There shall be charged upon and paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund to a person who holds the office of or is acting as Chief Justice, a judge of the Supreme Court, Judge President of the High Court or a judge of the High Court such salary and allowances as may from time to time be prescribed by or under an Act of Parliament.”
Parliament passed the Judgesâ€™ Salaries, Allowances and Pensions Act, which empowers the president to set the conditions of service for the judges through a statutory instrument.
The Minister of Finance is required to review salaries, pension benefits and allowances payable to judges whenever an increase is to be awarded to persons employed in the public service.
Legal experts said it was an international convention that no judge should receive any payment for his judicial work except as provided for under the necessary legislation.
Tererai Mafukidze, a lawyer, last week said it was the responsibility of the state and in particular the Finance minister to ensure that judges were adequately remunerated.
Mafukidze said: “Our judges are not and should never be a charity case. The salaries and benefits of judges must be set at the right levels and be known publicly in the same way changes to presidential or ministerial salaries and allowances are publicly gazetted.”
He said although it was common in developing countries for judiciaries to receive donor-funding, the funding should be targeted towards the improvement of the institutions of administration of justice and not for the personal and family comfort of judges.
“The funding is provided for specific projects and the purchase of books and equipment. The funding is secured from foreign entities and not from entities within the jurisdiction of Zimbabwean courts. This ensures that the independence of judges is not compromised by benefits received from potential litigants,” added Mafukidze.
Master of the High Court Charles Nyatanga this week defended the donations saying judges were constitutional appointees and they should be looked after.
“There is no issue of compromising the judiciary as the RBZ has given the judges essential tools to necessitate them to work effectively,” Nyatanga.
Efforts to get a comment from the central bank governor, Gideon Gono, were in vain yesterday, as he did not respond to questions sent to his office on Wednesday.
By Lucia Makamure