via Hire judges on merit July 17, 2014
THE drama, comic moments and lack of legal knowledge that characterised the public interviews for the selection of Supreme Court judges held in Harare on Monday has exposed a compromised judiciary, politicised courts; and a skills deficit on the bench.
The fact that some of the aspiring judicial officers of the Supreme Court stuttered and stumbled in their responses and that they displayed sheer lack of basics of the legal profession should be a cause for concern.
In the past judges were appointed at the pleasure of President Robert Mugabe, but now the appointees have to go through a public selection process. The open system has shone some light into the state of the bench and exposed that the old system created problems of professionalism and integrity.
It is, therefore, not too far-fetched to conclude that too many of Zimbabwe’s judges have benefited from the government’s political munificence such that the bench cannot be deemed independent.
What transpired during the interviews this week confirms the general consensus that the Judiciary was compromised both at the level of individual judges and at institutional level.
The state of the Judiciary was dramatised by three interviewees — Labour Court judge Euna Makamure who displayed lack of knowledge of basic tenets of law and admission of personal indiscretions by High Court judges Chinembiri Bhunu and Charles Hungwe .
Justice Bhunu admitted that receiving a farm could have compromised his standing as a judge and Justice Hungwe also admitted that the scandal surrounding a woman who died in his company was a dent on his character.
In light of this, it is very curious why Makamure would want to ascend to the higher court when her boss Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku feels that she should spend time at the High Court to learn the craft.
Questions also arise on the independence of judges who have received farms when they handle cases to do with land disputes.
It is also curious how the three judges were shortlisted for interviews only to embarrass themselves in public. Their exposure is, however, not just personal tragedies, but an indictment of the judicial system whose diligence and independence has constantly been under scrutiny.
In light of the revelations during the interviews, it is only fair to opine that the bench is staffed with a group of jurists who are either compromised or who lack certain key knowledge.
This is the challenge the current process of appointing judges has to get over. The country needs qualified, non-partisan and hardworking judges to ensure justice is delivered for the benefit of the country. It is hoped that adhering to the new Constitution’s requirements in appointing judges should help depoliticise the bench and attract greater competency and boost public confidence in the justice system.
This should allow the Judiciary Service Commission to establish a more favourable environment to attract senior lawyers to the bench. This is a real test for the bench. A total of 10 candidates have been put through public scrutiny and eventual choices will determine whether there is real commitment to improve or to retain more of the same.
You cannot possibly appoint judges on merit! That is totally and completely un-Zimbabwean (well certainly un-Zanu)
How can you predetermine the outcome of casesw if the judges are not corrupt, and actually know the law, and juustice?
Zanooo deliberately destroyed the judiciary years ago because they did not want to be troubled by the law. What would have happened to farm invasions if there’d been The Rule of Law?