JUDGE President George Chiweshe and Justice Antoinette Guvava are now acting judges of the newly established nine-member Constitutional Court that started work yesterday when it heard a Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) application challenging the ill-treatment of people living with HIV in detention by police and prison officers.
Report by Paidamoyo Muzulu
Chiweshe and Guvava joined Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba, Paddington Garwe, Annemarie Gowora, Vernanda Ziyambi, Bharat Patel and Ben Hlatshwayo to hear the first case brought before the court since it was established on Wednesday when President Robert Mugabe signed the new constitution and gazetted it on the same day.
The new constitution automatically elevated the entire Supreme Court bench to the permanent constitutional court for the next seven years. In the past the five supreme court judges under the chairmanship of the chief justice sat as the constitutional court on a case by case basis.
Judicial Services Commission deputy secretary Rex Shana confirmed the duo’s elevation to the constitutional court as being in line with the new constitution’s requirements of Section 166 (2).
The clause stipulates the Chief Justice may appoint a judge or a former judge to act as a judge of the Constitutional Court if their services are required for a certain period.
Advocate Chadambuka instructed by ZLHR lawyers Tawanda Zhuwarara and Dzimbabwe Chimbga became the first lawyers to present their case before the court.
They were representing Douglas Muzanenhamo, an activist living with HIV, who was denied access to life-saving anti-retroviral drugs after his arrest for watching videos on the Arab Spring. The Arab Spring refers to revolutions that took place in North Africa and the Middle East and overthrew governments in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.
Chadambuka had a torrid time convincing the court that indeed Muzanenhamo was denied medication while in police and prison custody after the officer in charge Harare Central Prison deposed an affidavit refuting the allegations. Chidyausiku then suggested the applicant seek redress from the High Court since there were many disputed points in the case.
The court reserved judgment on the case after the state argued the matter should be referred back to the High Court or dealt with as a civil matter.
The Constitutional Court is expected to hear its second case today when a Harare man Jealousy Mawarire seeks the court to compel President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and MDC leader Welshman Ncube to proclaim election dates as there may be a constitutional crisis if June 29 elapses without proclamation of poll dates in terms of the law.