THE ongoing feud in the judiciary has its roots in underlying tensions between Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku and Judge President Justice George Chiweshe, both politically connected judges, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.
Sources in the judiciary said the working relations between the Chief Justice and the Judge President had deteriorated to such an extent that judges quickly found themselves in camps after Chidyausiku lashed out at incompetent judicial officers during the official opening of the 2015 legal year on January 12.
High Court judges coalesced around Chiweshe and through him, wrote a scathing letter to Chidyausiku on January 28 claiming they felt “humiliated, dejected and despondent” by his “inaccurate and damaging analyses, impressions and conclusions”.
The memo leaked to the media forcing Chidyausiku to react, first through the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) secretary Rita Makarau, threatening stern measures against underperformers unless they improved.
Then on February 5, Chidyausiku personally responded to the January 28 memo attacking the judges, some of whom he said still have reviews dating as far back as 2008.
Sources in the judiciary said the feeling among some judges is that Chidyausiku had attacked the Judge President while some members of the bench were also unhappy with the public rebuke.
Chiweshe, a war veteran, is a former Judge Advocate-General in the Zimbabwe National Army.
In September 2004, he was appointed Chairman of the Delimitation Commission of Zimbabwe and in 2005 he became chairman of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec).
He was the Zec chairperson during the discredited June 2008 elections where the electoral body withheld presidential election results for a month, amid allegations that Zec and the securocrats used the time to cook up figures after Mugabe had lost the presidential elections to Morgan Tsvangirai, while also hatching a campaign strategy for an election run-off.
He was appointed Judge President in 2010, a move many saw as a reward for his role in the 2008 elections.
Because of his political and military connections and credentials, sources in the judiciary say Chiweshe is not afraid of the Chief Justice and “does not want to be tossed around”.
Chidyausiku, on the other hand, also has a lot of political connections and is determined to crack the whip and stamp his authority. His resolve has been strengthened by improvement in judges’performance since his public rebuke.
The judges delivered 105 judgments in two weeks after the rebuke at an average of three judgments per judge. Some judges had, however, managed to deliver only two judgments in the 2014 legal year.
Chidyausiku reportedly has support of some top government officials, although they also accuse him of being a hypocrite because he has apparently not delivered a judgment on Tsvangirai’s 2002 presidential election challenge.