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Malaba faces contempt of court charge

BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA

FORMER Chief Justice Luke Malaba is facing a contempt of court charge after he allegedly defied a High Court order which blocked extension of his term of office by five years.

Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum executive director Musa Kika on Tuesday filed an urgent chamber application after Malaba reportedly turned up for work on Monday despite the court order.

Kika pointed out that Elizabeth Gwaunza had been appointed acting Chief Justice, indicating that Malaba had ceased to hold the post until finalisation of the matter in court.

Malaba’s term of office expired on May 15, 2021 when he turned 70.

Kika successfully challenged President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s attempt to extend Malaba’s tenure by five years in a landmark ruling by three High Court judges, Justices Happias Zhou, Edith Mushore and Jester Charewa.

In his latest urgent chamber application, through his lawyers Thabani Mpofu and Tendai Biti, Kika wants Malaba, cited as the first respondent, to pay $1 million fine for contempt of court or be sentenced to a wholly suspended six-month jail term at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison on condition that he stops serving as chief justice.

Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, acting Chief Justice Gwaunza and the Judicial Service Commission were also cited as respondents in the matter.

“For the entire day on the 24th of May 2021, first respondent purported to exercise the function of the Chief Justice of Zimbabwe,” Kika stated.

“It did not bother him that the country has an Acting Chief Justice. He has since that day continued to present himself at work and to purport to exercise the functions of the chief justice.”

Kika added that Malaba’s conduct put the Judiciary in disrepute and projected the image of a dysfunctional institution and country.

He said Ziyambi’s contemptuous public statement after the High Court ruling against the extension of Malaba’s tenure influenced Malaba to defy the court order, which precipitated a constitutional crisis.

“First respondent was, therefore, clear at all times that a judgment that affected him had been issued,” Kika said.

“It had been read in the presence and hearing of his counsel. All the respondents proceeded on that understanding. In addition, it clearly feeds off the contemptuous statement issued by the second respondent (Ziyambi) and shows that the first respondent has been emboldened to commit this contempt by reason of second respondent’s own contempt.”

Government appealed against the High Court ruling which ended Malaba’s tenure and the matter is still pending at the courts.

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