Fidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter—
Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku is expected to open the 2017 legal year in a week’s time ahead of his retirement next month.
He will be stepping down at the end of February when he will reach the mandatory age of 70.
The opening of the legal year is one of the most celebrated event in the legal calendar. The event reminds all those involved within the Judiciary and legal fraternity of the need to uphold the principles that drive the country’s justice delivery system to the benefit of society.
Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba is expected to take over in an acting capacity in March pending the amendment of the Constitution to facilitate the appointment of the new Chief Justice.
The amendment seeks to give the President constitutional powers to hand pick the Chief Justice and Judge President.
The Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill (Number 1) meant to change the Constitution has since been gazetted.
Chief Justice Chidyausiku was appointed to his post in July 2001 and during his tenure he presided over a number of reforms within the Judiciary.
Two years ago, Chief Justice Chidyausiku courted controversy when he criticised “under-performing” High Court judges during the official opening of the 2015 judicial year.
He claimed that one of the judges had managed to deliver only two judgments during the course of the whole year.
The High Court judges hit back, saying Chief Justice Chidyausiku was out of touch with the modern judiciary delivery trends. They wrote a petition to him demanding that he withdrew his statement, which they said was made in bad faith.
Last month, Chief Justice Chidyausiku found himself in controversy for conducting public interviews to choose his successor in the face of the pending constitutional amendment.
The High Court stopped the public interviews to select the next Chief Justice.
The court granted the interdict that was sought by Romeo Taombera Zibani, a fourth year law student at the University of Zimbabwe.
But the interviews went ahead after the Judicial Services Commission filed a notice of appeal against Justice Charles Hungwe’s decision to stop the interviews.
In his ruling, Justice Hungwe rapped the JSC’s decision to hold interviews for the new Chief Justice when it was aware Government had initiated a process to amend the Constitution and that the selection process was being contested in court.
He said Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who oversees the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs, should be allowed to steer the changes to the Constitution.