BY RICHARD MUPONDE
Judicial Service Commission (JSC) deputy legal services secretary Faith Mushure has exposed Chief Justice Luke Malaba for “lying” that suspended High Court judge Justice Erica Ndewere, had 28 reviews and eight judgments which were outstanding.
Justice Ndewere was suspended five months ago by President Emmerson Mnangagwa for alleged incompetence.
Since Tuesday, she has been appearing before a tribunal led by retired judge Justice Simbi Mubako, set up to establish if she was still suitable for office.
During cross-examination by Justice Ndewere’s lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, Mushure, who is the star witness, said the JSC accepted that the judge’s 28 reviews and eight judgments were not outstanding.
“I am aware also that several judges exceed 90 days to give their judgments and that several judges at the Supreme Court have judgments outstanding for up to three years,” Mushore said.
“The Judicial Service Commission has now changed the charge from 28 outstanding reviews and judgments to ‘failure to complete the judgments in 90 days’.”
Justice Ndewere yesterday claimed that she was the only judge out of 17 who was suspended for allegedly failing to deliver judgments on time, accusing Chief Justice Malaba of lying to Mnangagwa.
“There are 17 judges mentioned in memoranda from Chief Justice (Malaba), but I was the only one singled out for victimisation,” Justice Ndewere told the tribunal.
“I explained on my part, my reasons to Judge President (Paddington Garwe) for exceeding 90 days, because I had been on sick leave for three months.
“Apparently, the Chief Justice had also written a memo to Judge President dated October 1, 2020, where he instructed judges to complete judgments which were outstanding for 15 months by November 30, 2020.
“In the memorandum, Chief Justice Luke Malaba instructed all judges to exceed the 90-day limit from three months to 17 months. I didn’t have any outstanding judgments on October 1, 2020 when this instruction was
Mtetwa said Justice Malaba reported in his address at the opening of the 2021 legal year on January 16 this year that the High Court had a backlog of 1 724 cases as at December 31, 2020, but not a single file from this backlog belonged to Justice Ndewere, which proves the victimisation.
“Other judges with outstanding judgments have not been disciplined and that doesn’t matter because this hearing was about Justice Ndewere, and not other judges. These judgments were completed two years ago,” Mtetwa said.
Justice Ndewere denied all charges and told the tribunal in her defence that she was being victimised by the Chief Justice for refusing to deny giving bail to former Labour minister Priscah Mupfumira and opposition MDC Alliance vice-chairperson Job Sikhala.
Justice Ndewere also told the tribunal that Chief Justice Malaba wrote to all judges on May 18, 2020 instructing them to complete all outstanding judgments by July 31, 2020.
“I had only one outstanding judgment when Chief Justice Malaba provided the extension to six judges. The memorandum by Chief Justice Malaba dated May 18, 2020 extended the time to complete the judgment from 90 days to July 31, 2020 and I met that deadline provided by the Chief Justice,” Justce Ndewere said.
Mtetwa said Chief Justice Malaba had accepted that 90 days was not practical when he issued his memorandum dated May 18, 2020, hence his decision to extend the deadline to July 31, 2020.
The hearing continues today when Donald Ndirowei, the Registrar of the High Court, will give evidence.
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