Chief Justice interviews go head
l 3 nominees turn up l Justice Chiweshe in no-show
Daniel Nemukuyu: Senior Court Reporter
The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) yesterday went ahead with public interviews to select a new Chief Justice as planned after noting an appeal that automatically set aside the High Court judgment barring the process.However, one of the four nominees -, Judge President George Chiweshe – was in no-show, a development that resulted in the commission interviewing the remaining three candidates — Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba, Justice Paddington Garwe and Justice Rita Makarau.
Outgoing Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku opened the interview session by announcing the number of judgments delivered by the candidates in the past four years.
Judge President Chiweshe was the first on the list with a total of five judgments for a period stretching from 2013 to 2016. He delivered three judgments in 2013, one in 2014, zero in 2015 and one this year. Out of the five judgments, two were reported in the Zimbabwe Law Reports.
Deputy Chief Justice Malaba, during the same period handed down 50 judgments and 15 of them were reportable. Justice Garwe in the past four years delivered 34 judgments, of which 14 were reported in the Zimbabwe Law Reports.
Justice Makarau, who has been seconded to the JSC as Acting Secretary, has not been sitting in court for the past years, hence the commission resolved to judge her using the four years she was Judge President of the High Court.
During that period, Justice Makarau handed down 88 judgments, 52 of which were reported in the Zimbabwe Law Reports. During the interviews, Deputy Chief Justice Malaba said the number of his judgments alone was not a standard measure for competence and capability to hold the office of the Chief Justice.
He said at the Supreme Court he took responsibility of most of the judgments handed down by other judges and that all the credit must be given to him.
“The Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court, where I have been siting all these years, require distribution of responsibilities of writing judgments. “In most cases I sit as the most senior in the absence of the Chief Justice, who will be doing other duties. “The judgments of the other judges shows effectiveness on my part . . .”
Justice Malaba told the panel that he had taken the responsibility to write judgments that have been admired throughout the country and internationally. Justice Garwe said the Supreme and Constitutional Courts had fewer cases than the High Court, hence a one size fits all approach does not apply in judging the performance of judges from the two benches.
“For instance, this term I was allocated only two judgments to write but that does not mean that the two cases are the only ones I worked on.
“After putting questions to some lawyers, they end up settling or withdrawing their matters. I believe, over the years, I have done the best that anybody else could have done,” he said.
Justice Garwe told the panel that he had made two major achievements in his entire judicial career, which contributed to the development of the law in the country.
“People hear of community service and think that it was there since time immemorial. I introduced community service here in Zimbabwe in 1993 when I was at the High Court. In 1994, we placed the first 30 convicts on community service and that time there was much resistance from stakeholders.
“I also introduced the pre-trial diversion programme for the juveniles after realising that sending them to jail had an effect of destroying their lives,” he said.
Justice Makarau said she was involved in the setting up of the JSC secretariat and managed to set up a team that delivered. To that end, Justice Makarau said she was proud to be associated with the success of the JSC team and that testifies to her administrative skills.
She also cited her setting up of divisions like the Family Law Court in the High Court during her time as Judge President as some of her success stories as an administration.
Justice Makarau said given an opportunity to be the Chief Justice of Zimbabwe, she would maintain the momentum the JSC has already gathered in improving access to justice for all. “We have built several magistrates’ courts countrywide, decentralised the High Court and improved on the rules of the courts.
“We have carried out outreach programmes like holding JSC open days where we interacted with the public. I also intend to continue bringing judges of the region together like what we did during Chief Justice Chidyausiku’s time and I will be open to suggestions from other judges and officers on how to improve ourselves professionally,” she said.
Given an opportunity to take over as Chief Justice, Justice Makarau said, she would push for the improvement of magistrates’ salaries and conditions of service. DCJ Malaba said he had been a judicial officer for over 35 years and had delivered 306 judgments in the superior courts.
“Out of the 306 judgments I wrote from 1994 in the superior courts, 122 were reported in the law reports. “No one has questioned the level of my judgments and now I am proud to sit here and say ‘That is where I want to go’, ” he said.
In the exercise of his judicial power, the DCJ said, he had used the law to protect public interest. He said he took time to hear the need and answer to the cries of the poor. Administratively, DCJ Malaba said he had the opportunity to chair JSC meetings in the absence of the Chief Justice.
JSC will forward the names of the successful candidates to the President before an appointmenmt is made.