Fidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter
The tribunal set up to rule on misconduct allegations against Justice Francis Bere has stopped its proceedings until the High Court has ruled on a defence application to review a tribunal decision not to delay the hearing.
Both parties had been asked by the tribunal to agree on a convenient date for the resumption of the hearing.
A fortnight ago, tribunal chairman and retired judge Justice Simbi Mubako ruled on preliminary issues, deciding that the tribunal could proceed even though Justice Bere, under suspension from the Supreme Court, wanted the tribunal stopped until the High Court had ruled on the legality of the tribunal.
The High Court had already refused to accept this first application on tribunal legality as a matter of urgency, but it is still on the ordinary continuous roll and will eventually wind its way to be heard before a judge.
What Justice Bere now wants is for the tribunal proceedings to be stayed until that legal issue is decided.
The tribunal refused to do this, but on Friday, just before tribunal proceedings were about to resume, Justice Mubako did agree to halt proceedings until the application to review the earlier decision not to delay matters further has been dealt with.
Justice Bere’s lawyer Prof Lovemore Madhuku confirmed that the hearing had been suspended to a later date this month.
“(Retired judge) Justice Simbi Mubako took note of our application for review of the tribunal decision and stopped the proceedings to allow the High Court to deal with our urgent application, which was filed on Thursday,” he said.
“They were served with a copy of our application to the High Court.”
So there are now two live applications by Justice Bere before the High Court, one to cancel the tribunal and one that, in effect, seeks to have the tribunal stop sitting until the first one is decided.
Justice Bere is facing three charges of improper conduct after a Harare lawyer accused him of interfering in a civil case.
He denied the charges, before challenging the whole tribunal process, seeking to invalidate Proclamation 1 of 2020, the legal instrument, which was issued by President Mnangagwa, at the request of the Judicial Service Commission, established the tribunal.
The judge, who was serving on both the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court benches, was suspended from the bench in March this year, pending a probe into potential misconduct.
He is accused of meddling in a civil case involving the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) and his relatives.
He allegedly telephoned Mr Itai Ndudzo, who was representing Zinara, asking him to consider settling a civil dispute pitting Zinara against Fremus Enterprises.
Complaints against him were raised before Deputy Chief Justice, Elizabeth Gwaunza, during a court hearing, and Mr Ndudzo was asked to make the complaint in writing.
In a response to the allegations, Justice Bere claimed that he only contacted Mr Ndudzo in the context of their personal relationship, dating back to the days when they were both members of the Zimbabwe Football Association Ethics Committee.
He described the complaint as a falsehood meant to taint his record.
This is the second time Justice Bere has been the subject of a serious complaint, but in the first case he was cleared of wrongdoing.