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Magistrates found guilty of speaking out

TWO magistrates have been found guilty by the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) of illegally communicating through the press without clearance to do so by the employer.


Ignatio Kudakwashe Mhene and Ndumo Masuku, who are chairman and secretary general of the Magistrates Association of Zimbabwe (MAZ) respectively, were found guilty of issuing a press statement on behalf of their association without permission from Justice Rita Makarau, the JSC secretary.

The two issued a press statement on September 3 last year dismissing allegations by lawyer Wilson Manase during public interviews for the post of prosecutor general (PG), that the lower courts were infested with corruption.

JSC said the two magistrates violated the employer code of conduct which prohibited them from speaking to the press without clearance from the secretary.

“The allegations in broad terms were that … both members published or caused to be published a press statement … without authority or clearance from the secretary, contrary to the JSC policy on employees’ communication with the press,” reads part of the judgement.

A three-member committee chaired by E Mutasa, found that the two magistrates represented by Beatrice Mtetwa were guilty of misconduct and now await punishment.

Mtetwa had, however, argued that his clients should not have been charged in their individual capacities since they had acted on behalf of an association which was a legal persona who could be sued or sue in its own capacity.

They also accused JSC of selective application of the law by charging just the two of them when the MAZ had an executive of up to five members.

“Mhene stated that he is chairperson of MAZ and Masuku is the secretary general. Their evidence was that they acted on instructions from members of MAZ to raise their exception to the conduct or sentiments of Manase during the interviews to select the PG of Zimbabwe. They argued that the conduct of MAZ should not be visited upon them because MAZ is a separate legal entity or legal persona,” reads part of the judgement.

However, the committee found the two guilty, saying they failed to provide a resolution from MAZ that gave them the power to issue the press statement. The committee further said the two were trying to hide behind MAZ even after doing what they knew was wrong.

“It is common cause that both members are employees of JSC as magistrates and this is what qualified them to join MAZ. The conduct of both members in relation to JSC is regulated by the Judicial Services Act and regulations thereto,” reads part of the judgement.

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