THE Judicial Services Commission (JSC) that conducted the first public interviews to select nominees for the Supreme Court has been criticised for lack of gender balance as required by the constitution.
At least 10 judges from the High and Labour Courts appeared before the JSC interviewing panel this week led by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku. The interviewees included six male and four female judges.
According to Veritas, a grouping of lawyers that provides information on the work of parliament and the laws of Zimbabwe, JSC is not a model for gender balance as it currently has two women out of its 10 members.
Members of the JSC include ex-officio members — Chidyausiku, Deputy chief justice Luke Malaba, High Court judge president George Chiweshe, chief magistrate Mishrod Guvamombe and chairperson of the Civil Service Commission Mariyawanda Nzuwah.
It also includes High Court judge Justice Happias Zhou, three legal practitioners chosen by the Law Society of Zimbabwe in Lloyd Mhishi, Joshua Tshuma and Priscilla Madzonga and an accountant nominated by the Public Accounts and Auditors Board.
According to one of the national objectives as stated in Chapter 2, section 17 of the constitution, there should be full gender balance in Zimbabwean society in general, that is equal representation of both genders in all institutions and agencies of government at every level, including judicial institutions.
Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association information officer Merit Rumema blamed the gender imbalance of the interviewees on the media.
Rumema said: “There were adverts placed for nominations for these posts and it was up to the public to nominate the female judges. However, because very few female judges are covered by the media, the public ends up knowing Justice Chinembiri Bhunu or Justice Charles Hungwe who they frequently read about or see in the media.”
She said the JSC was “clearly not balanced” and expects that in future when the six-year non-renewable terms of some of the commissioners expire, more women will be included.
The JSC, which is supposed to have 13 members according to the constitution, was not fully represented as there are three vacant posts in the commission, namely that of an attorney-general, law professor or senior lecturer chosen by university lecturers, and one person experienced in human resources management.
However, Veritas said: “The three vacancies in the JSC membership do not preclude it from acting validly, as long as what it does is done by members who are a quorum, which is seven.”
After the interviews, the JSC is required to prepare a list of nine qualified persons as nominees to be considered by President Robert Mugabe and according to the constitution section 180 (2) (d), three names are required per each of the three vacancies.
The Supreme Court currently has 10 judges, five men and five women.