Tendai Kamhungira 15 February 2017
HARARE – Prominent human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa has said judges
must by all means avoid playing to the whims of politicians as this defies
the separation of powers principle provided for in the Constitution.
Her sentiments come at a time the Executive is seeking to amend the
Constitution to allow President Robert Mugabe to have the sole power to
appoint the Chief Justice (CJ) – a development that has been linked to
Zanu PF factional and succession fights.
Speaking to the Daily News in an exclusive interview yesterday, Mtetwa
said the Constitution stated very clearly that judges must not meddle in
“This is right across the board, you find lawyers that are openly
factional, … judges that are also openly aligning themselves with
political players and … that really is a very sad development,
particularly given the attempt at ensuring that there is full separation
between all three arms of government (Executive, Judiciary and the
Legislature),” she said.
“I think we just could have a whole lot less political interference within
the Judiciary and I wish judges would stop aligning themselves with the
members of the Executive,” Mtetwa said.
She said that is why she took part in a Supreme Court appeal challenging
High Court judge Charles Hungwe’s ruling that wanted to do away with the
holding of public interviews to select out-going CJ Godfrey Chidyausiku’s
successor. Chidyausiku leaves the bench at the end of this month after
reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70.
“I would really like the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to ensure that
there is true separation, that there is no overlap and that judicial
officers are left to do their work without interference,” Mtetwa said.
She said the country is seeing gains in terms of the improvement of the
rule of law because of the coming in of the new Constitution, as compared
to what it was 15 years ago.
“This is why some of us were extremely concerned by the haste with which
members of the Executive were starting to tinker with the Constitution.
With the new appointment procedure for judges, we believe this was also
meant to enhance rule of law issues, because if judges are picked
transparently from a pool of lawyers, they are unlikely to be beholden to
the appointing authority because they would not have been chosen through
some secret non-transparent way,” Mtetwa said.
She added that “if a person has gone through a public interview, my view
is that they are more likely to be independent and that would enhance the
rule of law and improve the country’s ranking on the rule of law index”.
Mtetwa said if people allow the Constitution to be changed willy-nilly, it
will open a floodgate of alterations of other legislation with dire
The Supreme Court set aside Hungwe’s decision, legalising the public
interviews that were held late last year, after ruling that the
Executive’s plans to amend the law did not in itself nullify the