Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
At least 12 vacant posts for judges in both the High Court and Supreme Court need to be filled for the smooth administration of justice, the Judicial Service Commission has said.
The vacancies were necessitated by several factors, which included retirement, elevation of some judges and deployment of other judges to Masvingo following the establishment of a High Court in the province.
This is contained in the JSC’s 2016 annual report that was tabled in Parliament last week by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who also oversees the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
The JSC said it declared four vacancies in the Supreme Court and had initiated procedures for their replacement in terms of Section 180 of the Constitution.
A list of qualifying candidates has since been submitted to the President in accordance with the law, the JSC said.
“All the prospective candidates for the vacant positions of judges of the Supreme Court came from the High Court,” read the report signed by former Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku who retired last month.
“If appointed, that would create vacancies in the High Court. To fill four of the vacancies that would be created by the anticipated appointment of four judges to the Supreme Court, the retirement of one judge and the redeployment of judges to the newly established High Court at Masvingo, the Commission also declared eight vacancies in the High Court.
“Again, the procedures set out in Section 180 (of the Constitution) regarding the appointment of judges was initiated.”
Two judges, Justice Vernanda Ziyambi from the Supreme Court/Constitutional Court and Justice November Mtshiya from the High Court retired towards the end of 2016 after attaining the mandatory age of 70.
The JSC said it had declared the posts of Chief Justice vacant in the same year and initiated processes for replacement, which have since culminated in the appointment of Justice Luke Malaba by President Mugabe.
It was also noted that there were two outstanding vacancies in the JSC for it to be fully constituted.
“These are a law lecturer and a person with not less than seven years’ experience in human resources,” reads the report. “The Commission once again draws attention to these vacancies and appeals for the vacancies to be filled.”
The JSC said it had 1 483 staff members against an authorised 2 058 posts, leaving 575 vacant posts, which it said could not be filled owing to a recruitment freeze by Treasury.
“The worrying situation relating to the lower judiciary explained in the previous report has not been remedied,” reads the report. “The vacancy rate remains high and is threatening efficient justice delivery in the magistracy.
“It is imperative that the freeze imposed on magistrate posts be immediately lifted as this impacts negatively on access to justice and administration of justice generally.”
There are 202 magistrates against an authorised establishment of 250, leaving 48 vacant posts.