THE Judicial Service Commission (JSC) yesterday held interviews to select five judges for the Constitutional Court (Concourt) bench in compliance with the 2013 Constitution, which requires the separation of judicial personnel manning the apex court and the Supreme Court.
Eight candidates participated in the interviews held at a city hotel and was streamed live on ZBC TV to fill the five posts.
Although there were 12 candidates shortlisted, four of them could not take part because they either withdrew or did not confirm their attendance, while one who is said to be abroad could not travel for the interviews due to Covid-19.
Of the eight candidates who took part in the interviews, five are currently acting judges of the Constitutional Court, one Supreme Court judge, one High Court judge and a lawyer from police legal department.
Supreme Court judge, Justice Chinembiri Bhunu was the first to face the interviewing panel led by Chief Justice Luke Malaba.
The judge gave a good account of himself when answering all the first four sets of questions to test the judges understanding of the Constitution and the apex court functions.
However, the judge could not explain why he had several judgments and cases uncompleted when he was still a High Court judge.
One of the cases is a murder trial, which had been outstanding for 15 years after being postponed indefinitely.
His explanation was that the accused person died in prison and had postponed the case to allow the State to file death certificate, which has not been done to date.
The Chief Justice sought to know why Justice Bhunu could not manage the case since it was before him and ensure that it had been disposed of.
“That case is not an outstanding case. The accused could have died in prison,” he said.
But the Chief Justice responded by saying that the death of an accused in prison did not mean the death of the case.
He said a judge cannot place his responsibility on other players in the justice delivery system.
Second to be interviewed was Justice Paddington Garwe.
The judge who had garnered enough layers of experience as a career judicial officer having risen through the ranks from the magistrates’ court, High Court, Supreme Court and now acting judge of the Constitution Court said he did not anticipate any challenges in the execution of his duties if he were to become a Concourt judge. He boasted a clean record.
Justice Ben Hlatshwayo acquitted himself well. However, just like Justice Bhunu, the judge also had several outstanding cases which he tried to explain the reasons for the delay.
He said in some of the cases there were no issues between the parties involved.
He also cited other reasons that prevented him from disposing of the matter. He was able to articulate the question on judicial accountability.
The judge also said he has acquired vast experience on Constitutional matters given the fact that he was a consultant during the COPAC, which gave birth to the new Constitution.
He also participated in the 1999 constitution making process which resulted in the rejection of the draft document the following year. This, he said was an advantage to him if he is appointed to the Constitutional Court bench.
Justice Rita Makarau faired well as she managed to answer all the questions without much strain.
Justice Anne-Mary Gowora, Mr Smart Mirirai, Justice Bharat Patel and Justice Happias Zhou were also interviewed yesterday.
The interviewing panel included Chief Justice Malaba, Deputy Chief Justice Elizabeth Gwaunza, Judge President George Chiweshe and Attorney-General Advocate Prince Machaya, among others.
The Supreme Court and Constitutional Court benches were split in May this year in compliance to the 2013 constitution.
Of the 12 shortlisted candidates, Justice Donald Stevenson Corke is out of the country and was unable to attend the interview while Justice Charles Hungwe voluntarily pulled out of the race.
Justice Bartlet did not confirm his attendance.