Source: ‘Govt commits to constitutionalism’ | The Herald May 10, 2017
Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter—
Acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday said Government was committed to the principles of constitutionalism, separation of powers and judicial independence to ensure development of the country’s democracy. Acting President Mnangagwa, who is also the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, said this in the National Assembly during the second reading of the Constitutional Amendment Bill Number 1 that seeks to change the appointment of Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice and the Judge President of the High Court.
“Allow me at the outset to reaffirm the commitment of Government in its constitutional implementation, to deepen the sacrosanct principles of constitutionalism in our flourishing constitutional democracy,” he said.
“The long and arduous constitutional development of our nation has taught us that there is more to gain in religiously adhering to the dictates of constitutionalism, including the principles of separation of powers, judicial independence and rule of law.
“These principles can only be of utility towards sound constitutional implementation if both the content and substance and adjectival aspects of our constitutional, legislative and administrative frameworks are above board.”
Acting President Mnangagwa said judicial independence was intricately linked to the manner in which the judges were appointed.
“Such appointments must be executed in a manner that does not compromise the legislative and administrative values and etiquette expected of such crucial officials,” he said.
“The appointment procedure must be in tandem with international best practice and be subjected to proper processes without internal and external influence whatsoever.
“This can only be achieved when the constitutional bedrock on which such appointments should be anchored is solid enough to arrest any mischief, perceptions and challenges that may arise in the administration of justice. The Bill is brought before this august House in order to reflect the spirit and letter of the above espoused values.”
Acting President Mnangagwa said under the current constitutional framework, the probability of subjecting people to be interviewed by the Judicial Services Commission for the posts of Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice and Judge President of the High Court to which they would be also members was high.
This, he said, would result in junior members of the JSC being in an invidious position where they would be interviewing their superiors.
Acting President Mnangagwa said the Chief Justice, under the current position and by virtue of him being chairperson of the JSC would preside over the selection of his successor, a situation that would be deemed irregular and inappropriate.
“This Bill seeks to regularise the above,” he said. “It will amend Section 180 of the Constitution by substituting Section 180 which provides for the appointment of judges.
“The appointment procedure for all the judges will remain as it is except for the Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice and the Judge President of the High Court.
“It is proposed by this amendment that the three officers will be appointed by the President after consultation with the JSC. If the appointment of a Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice or Judge President of the High Court is not consistent with any recommendation made by the JSC during the course of the consultations, then the President will have to inform the Senate of that fact as soon as possible.”
The Bill will also amend Paragraph 18 (6) of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution to remove the misconception that the Labour Court and the Administrative Court are at par with the High Court.
The amendment will make it clear that the two are subordinate to the High Court.
Debate on the Bill will continue next week.