Takunda Maodza recently in Geneva, Switzerland—
ACTING President Emmerson Mnangagwa has described as “a storm in a tea cup” the row over plans by Government to amend the Constitution to allow the President to appoint the Chief Justice, saying the amendment dealt with an issue of procedure and does not in any way derogate the independence of the Judiciary. The new Constitution, which will be amended to allow President Mugabe to appoint the Chief Justice, states that the CJ is appointed via public interviews by the Judicial Service Commission.
Speaking at a dinner held in his honour by Zimbabwe’s ambassador to the United Nations and World Trade Organisation, Mr Taonga Mushayavanhu in Geneva last Friday, VP Mnangagwa said it was unfortunate that those who understood the process were bent on misinforming the nation on a matter so clear.
“On the issue of the judiciary, uko ndokusina nyaya,” he said. “The old Constitution provided that when there are vacancies in the judiciary, the Minister of Justice, the Judicial Service Commission and the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) will look at the most senior practitioners in our country and put a list.
“The President nominates from that list as judges after looking at probity and integrity. During the outreach programme for new Constitution, the parties did not agree on the procedures where the judges are appointed by the President.
“We compromised for the sake of progress. We introduced in the Constitution, where if you want judges for the High Court, you advertise. Say you want six judges, like recently we wanted six judges, about 46 were interviewed for the six positions.
“Out of the 46, after they have been interviewed in terms of the Constitution, each post requires three names so when you need six judges, you need 18 names to be given to the President so he can choose. That has not changed. Whenever they are vacancies in the High Court, the JSC will advertise and those who want will come forward on a particular day and will be interviewed and the selection is made. If there are two vacancies, then they need six people, three for each position.”
VP Mnangagwa said the same process applied for the Supreme Court.
“Again when there are vacancies in the Supreme Court, you advertise,” he said. “Judges who want to be promoted from being High Court judges to become Supreme Court judges, apply.
“If there are two posts, again each post must have three names. If there are three posts, nine names. They are interviewed by the JSC. If they succeed, the list is sent to the President and the President selects. When you go to the Constitutional Court, the Chief Justice appoints a person from the Supreme Court into the Constitutional Court.”
Added VP Mnangagwa: “However, the JSC is chaired by the Chief Justice, the deputy is the Deputy Chief Justice and the secretary for the JSC is a Supreme Court judge, Justice Rita Makarau.
“We have Judge President Justice George Chiweshe as member of the JSC and the other from High Court. The others are members from outside in the JSC. When you want a Chief Justice, the most seniors are the ones who applied and these are the ones who chair, the deputy chair, secretary and Judge President.
“Ndovakati vanoda hu Chief Justice. Ndivo vobva vaya vadiki ndivo voita interview vadhara vakuru kuti vatingada kuita Chief Justice ndevapi. That is what we are changing. You can’t have juniors sitting to select new seniors.”
VP Mnangagwa said the President will appoint the judges to the top three positions.
“We are now saying for the office of Chief Justice, deputy Chief Justice and deputy President, these three the appointment must be done by the President in consultation with the JSC,” he said.
“What he does is for the post of Chief Justice, he (President) must propose the three names, then he sends the three names to the JSC to see whether the three names are fit persons to be Chief Justice in terms of qualifications and probity.
“That is the amendment we are making. But very few understand this. The few who understand are bent to misinform. That is what is happening.”
VP Mnangagwa said the rest of the judges would still go through public interviews.
“We have three arms of State — the Executive, headed by the President, the judiciary by the Chief Justice and the legislature by the Speaker (of Parliament),” he said.
“We have one person who is above the executive, the judiciary and the legislature – the Head of State. So, when he exercises his powers to appoint the Speaker, Chief Justice – he does that as Head of State…Ndiwomatongegwo enyika aya.
‘So, the amendment is to deal with the issue of procedures. It does not derogate anything concerning independence of the judiciary. Independence of the judiciary is guaranteed in the Constitution. We are not tempering with that. I wanted that to be clear.”
VP Mnangagwa has since returned home from Geneva.