via Chidyausiku slams judges | The Herald January 13, 2015 by Daniel Nemukuyu
Only five High Court judges were yesterday named as top performers for the 2014 legal year, while some among their 25 colleagues were so lazy that they wrote only two judgments in a year in which others delivered as many as 72.This was revealed by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku when he officially opened the 2015 legal year in Harare where he breathed fire over under performance by some judges of the High Court.
Acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Prosecutor-General Johannes Tomana, Police Deputy Commissioner-General Levy Sibanda, Prisons Deputy Commissioner-General Moses Chihobvu, senior legal practitioners and other Government officials attended the colourful event at Mashonganyika Building.
Chief Justice Chidyausiku said such poor performances by the judges called for new ones to be put on probation before being confirmed, as a way of improving the quality of the justice delivery system.
Chief Justice Chidyausiku could not hide his disappointment while disclosing that another judge only wrote three judgments, while two others wrote six and 11 judgments respectively the whole of last year.
He singled out Justice Nicholas Mathonsi as the best performer after he wrote 72 judgements of high quality and hailed him for his good work.
The Chief Magistrate’s Office headed by Mr Mishrod Guvamombe was also up for commendation after unbelievably reducing cases backlog from 49 000 to only 2 000 without getting any additional staff in 2014.
Chief Justice Chidyausiku said the reports he received revealed extreme cases of good and bad performance by the High Court judges, a situation that left him with mixed feelings about their general performance.
He listed other hard workers in the top five as Justices Nokuthula Moyo (Bulawayo), Priscilla Chigumba (Harare), Loice Matanda Moyo (Harare) and Charles Hungwe (Harare).
Chief Justice Chidyausiku did not reveal names of the lazy judges, but said there was no justification for the poor performance of the bottom four as they operated in the same environment with the top performers.
“In this regard, let me mention Justice Mathonsi, who in the course of the year, wrote and handed down an impressive 72 judgements,” he said. “His industry is revealed in its true dimensions if it is compared to the output of the least performing judges, who had two. three, six and 11 judgements respectively for the whole year.
“The four judges (worst performers) and Justice Mathonsi operate in the same environment and are subject to the same limited and unattractive conditions of service. As head of judiciary, I will accept no explanation that will seek to justify such low output as compared to what is possible within the same constraints.”
Chief Justice Chidyausiku said he was proud of Justice Mathonsi and the other top performers.
“In the same vein, let me mention with commendation the performance of Justices Moyo, Chigumba and Matanda-Moyo who, together with Justice Mathonsi, were the top four performers in the entire High Court,” he said.
“To the four, I say well done, and even though I cannot reward you in any way, I wish to let you know that as your Chief Justice, I am proud of your efforts.”
Chief Justice Chidyausiku praised Justice Hungwe for “pulling up his socks” and coming out as the fifth top performer, describing his improvement as a “remarkable turnaround”.
“This is a remarkable turnaround because over the years Justice Hungwe’s performance has been a cause for concern,” he said. “He and I have had conversations over the issue. I am delighted that the conversations have had a positive outcome. Keep it up judge.”
According to Chief Justice Chidyausiku, the declaration of more vacancies at the High Court and appointing more judges was not the main solution in reducing backlog.
“The case of Justice Hungwe’s performance buttresses my contention that diligent application by the judges could be the answer to taming the backlog in the High Court,” he said.
Chief Justice Chidyausiku said the quality of judgements at the Labour Court should be improved.
“Some judges performed extremely well in terms of numbers, although the number of one-page judgements was usually high in the Labour Court,” he said.
The backlog at the labour Court in Gweru, the Chief Justice said, had ballooned since the departure of Justice Maxwell Takuva, who is now a High Court judge and was succeeded by Justice Custom Kachambwa.
In 2013, Justice Takuva maintained the backlog at zero, but last year it rose to over 200 cases after Justice Kachambwa took over.
The Constitutional Court and Supreme Court judges were commended for being on top of the situation and managing the increasing cases filed last year despite being understaffed.
In 2014, 79 cases were filed at the Constitutional Court and 52 cases were completed, while judgement was reversed in several other cases.
Of the 407 appeals filed at the Supreme Court last year, 333 were finalised.