PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe will soon appoint judges to the Supreme Court, almost a year after they were publicly interviewed by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), despite the constitution requiring that all constitutional obligations be fulfilled without delay.
By Wongai Zhangazha
Mugabe is also yet to fill eight vacant posts at the High Court, but sources in the Justice ministry say he is likely to appoint Supreme Court judges soon.
The president is delaying the appointment process despite a 2015 annual report tabled in the National Assembly in August last year by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) stating that the High Court only managed to complete less than half of the trials it was supposed to conduct in 2015 due to shortages of judges.
The NPA report said the elevation of judges to the Supreme Court left some courts without presiding judges, leaving matters in abeyance for some time, awaiting to be set down afresh.
Eight High Court judges, namely Justices Charles Hungwe, Lavender Makoni, Alfas Chitakunye, Francis Bere, Samuel Kudya, Nicholas Mathonsi, Joseph Mafusire and Priscilla Chigumba were interviewed in September last year to fill four vacancies on the Supreme Court bench.
The JSC had advertised the four vacancies through a public notice in June last year.
A source in the Ministry of Justice this week gave a hint that Mugabe could soon appoint the judges after names were forwarded to him by the JSC.
“The president will be appointing the judges soon. What is left is for the financial processes to be finalised,” a source in the Justice ministry said.
The source said of the eight High Court judges interviewed only Chigumba’s name was not forwarded to Mugabe for consideration.
Chigumba, during her interview last year, was grilled by members of the JSC led by the late retired Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku over a complaint that it received to the effect that the judge had sent an agent to solicit a US$20 000 bribe from a Mr Kanokanga who was one of the parties in a case in which she was presiding over.
In October last year, 51 candidates were listed for the High Court interviews. However, several did not turn up after they failed the pre-interview judgment writing examination.
Of the 43 candidates who underwent the test, only 14 passed by a mark of five and above, out of a total mark of 10.
An official in the Justice ministry said by delaying in appointing judges, which had resulted in a backlog of cases, Mugabe had abdicated on his duties citing Section 324 of the constitution which states that: “All constitutional obligations must be performed diligently and without delay”.
“Although there is no specific timeline, Section 324 of the constitution makes it clear that constitutional obligations must not be delayed and some of the judges were interviewed six months or five months ago. This becomes a delay,” the official said.
Ministry of Justice permanent secretary Virginia Mabhiza last month told the Zimbabwe Independent that the president was seized with the matter, adding there were a number of considerations that were being made before the judges can be appointed.
“Whenever something is before the president it is difficult to comment on. I would not be qualified to talk about it. However, what I can say is that there are a number of considerations that have to be made before the judges are appointed,” Mabhiza said.
“Some of the main considerations are to do with the budget. There are so many costs implicated when judges are appointed, a process that needs consultations with the Finance.”