Farayi Machamire 6 March 2017
HARARE – The appointment process of retired Chief Justice (CJ) Godfrey
Chidyausiku’s successor has lost credibility due to political
interference, a legal watchdog – Veritas – has said.
It said the race to replace Chidyausiku, who retired last week after
reaching the retirement age of 70, has been marred by Zanu PF infighting.
“It is most unfortunate that the appointment of a new CJ seems to have
fallen prey to political factionalism,” Veritas said in a statement.
“Even the appearance of political involvement in the appointment process
diminishes the authority and prestige that should attach to the office.
It is to be hoped that whoever finally becomes CJ will be able to reassert
the independence of his or her office and of the judiciary as a whole,” it
Even Chidyausiku has echoed the same sentiment.
In a valedictory speech delivered at a dinner hosted in his honour last
Monday evening, he said: “There are times when things do not go the way
they should… one of them is the way we are quarrelling about my
successor… it is really a big disappointment.”
“I would have wanted to leave one very united judiciary that is fearless,
independent and with a backbone of steel,” Chidyausiku added.
The CJ saga came in the spotlight mid-October last year when the Judicial
Service Commission (JSC) advertised the vacancy and invited the public to
attend open interviews of qualified candidates keen on the job.
Four candidates were nominated and the JSC announced it would interview
the candidates in public on December 12.
However, on December 7, days before the interviews were to be held, an
urgent application was lodged in the High Court for a provisional court
order blocking them until Section 180 of the Constitution could be
It was lodged by 25-year-old Romeo Zibani, a law student “who apparently
has the financial resources to engage in public-interest litigation – one
of the fairy-tale elements of this saga,” Veritas said.
Zibani argued that the current procedure under Section 180 of the
Constitution is improper because it involves judges who sit on the JSC
having a say in appointing the head of the Judiciary.
Justice Charles Hungwe treated the application as urgent even though the
interviews had been public knowledge for months before going on to hear
the application on December 9.
On the eve of the interviews on December 11, Justice Hungwe ordered that
the interviews should not be held.
The JSC immediately lodged an appeal automatically suspending Judge
Hungwe’s order so the JSC went ahead with the interviews on December 12.
Only three candidates were interviewed, the fourth did not appear.
On January 3, 2017, a Bill to amend Section 180 of the Constitution was
On February 13, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court heard the JSC’s
appeal against Judge Hungwe’s judgment.
“One of the judges on the bench, Vernanda Ziyambi, was recalled from
retirement after other eligible judges had recused themselves.
“The court allowed lawyers representing the Law Society of Zimbabwe,
Beatrice Mtetwa and a Bulawayo organisation called Abammeli Bamalungelo
Abantu Network of Human Rights Lawyers to deliver arguments as “amici
curiae” or friends of the court in support of the appeal.”
“The three judges unanimously allowed the appeal and set aside Justice
“The Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs ministry then made two
“The first one that it had requested, and received from the JSC for
submission to the President (Robert Mugabe), the JSC’s list of three
nominees in terms of section 180 of the Constitution and secondly, that in
terms of section 181(1) of the Constitution the Deputy Chief Justice will
act as Chief Justice with effect from March 1 until a substantive
appointment is made. Luke Malaba is the acting CJ since Wednesday last
“On February 22, Zibani applied to the Constitutional Court for an order
setting aside the Supreme Court’s judgment on the grounds that the
appointment of retired Judge Ziyambi to preside in the appeal was
“And so the saga unfolds. No doubt there will be many more twists and
turns in its plot before it comes to a conclusion,” Veritas concluded.