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Judiciary being corroded by political expediency

Cyprian M Ndawana

DEAR President Emmerson Mnangagwa,

Your Excellency, societal harmony is under threat as the Judiciary, which essentially should be independent from interference, is being corroded by political expediency. Meddling with the office of Chief Justice is devoid of legality.

It is a damning indictment for your government to be embroiled in a fight to retain Chief Justice Luke Malaba at the apex of the Judiciary.

It is not prudent for your government to wage the stubborn fight for the retention of the septuagenarian beyond retirement age. With an abundance of capable jurists, there is no rational in clinging tenaciously to the old man.

Methinks Malaba risks being an embarrassment to not only the Judiciary, but the whole legal fraternity. It is not wrong to perceive him as an asset to the ruling Zanu PF party. He is a party functionary who conceals his regalia beneath judicial robs.

Your Excellency, Malaba ought to have been circumspect and avoided being an accomplice in political schemes. He ultimately compromised the honour and dignity of the Judiciary. Ironically, like a bug in a rug, Malaba appears oblivious to the constitutional crisis he triggered.

He does not exhibit any remorse for the contempt shown to the bench by Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, who unleashed vitriol on judges. Malaba went on to resume his duties despite a ruling to, contrary and in obdurate contravention of the Constitution he swore to uphold.

He ought to accept responsibility for the manner in which Ziyambi gave voice to his emotions. He could not hold his tongue as he delivered a tirade on the Judiciary, akin to the seven woes Jesus pronounced to Pharisees and teachers of the law. (Matt 23:1-39).

He was law unto himself. He rebuked the judges, describing their ruling as a judicial overreach. He was enraged because the ruling went against government, infuriated by the declaration that Malaba’s tenure ended on May 15, when he turned 70.

His Excellency, it was a sad day for democracy as the court was brought into disrepute. Although Ziyambi acted alone when he attacked the bench, his action was a replication of what was done by hordes of war veterans led by Chenjerai Hunzvi in 2002, who stormed the Supreme Court and danced on the tables, threatening then Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay with storming his home.

One dereliction of duty Malaba ought to have avoided is that of failure to judiciously preserve the age-old concept of judicial independence. It was incumbent upon him, as a lawyer, and as the Chief Justice, to defend the integrity of the Judiciary.

Conversely, he proved to be pliable. His patronage runs parallel to societal expectations of an independent jurist. With him still keen to remain as the Judiciary boss, he has invited a lot of criticism, making many question what exactly he is seeking.

His headship now suffers from a poverty of authenticity. It lacks the moral seal of authority and legitimacy. Basically, your government is making him go out on a limb given that his subordinates are bound to ostracise him. Yet, he can salvage the little remaining respect if he were to abandon his pursuit.

Your Excellency, the damage control statement you made that “in Zimbabwe we listen whenever courts speak” was ineffectual. It was a mere whimper, too fleeting to restore Judiciary dignity, given Ziyambi’s harangue.

As I see it, nothing short of relieving Ziyambi of his duties suffices to demonstrate sincerity that government listens whenever the court speaks. Methinks it is imperative that extension of Malaba’s tenure be aborted, with no further attempt at restarting it.

It was untoward for Ziyambi to transgress the tenets of separation of powers among the three pillars of the State with his blistering condemnation of the judges. He ought to have been dismissed immediately, lest his stay rendered your statement meaningless. With Ziyambi still calling the shots in the corridors of power, disruption to societal harmony is apparent.

He stoked suspicions of judicial partiality when he read the riot act to judges. There can never be harmony when the citizenry is wary about adjudications by a pliant Judiciary.

Your Excellency, it is about time Malaba and his backers ceased adorning him as the doyen of the law. Frankly, it is foolhardy to prop him, even against the odds, as the case now. His charge of contempt of court has done more damage to his image.

Endeavours to extend Malaba’s tenure torched a storm. Like Apostle Paul, he has to be grateful that he ran his race to completion. It’s time up, good ole Malaba.

Revelations that there were attempts to influence one of the three judges hearing his case do not augur well for his acceptance by the citizenry. Consequently, I implore Malaba to introspect. As I see it, it is time he put the country ahead of his personal interests.

It is unfortunate that the new dispensation had to amend the Constitution in its keenness to recycle the old guard. In spite of repeatedly talking about a middle-class society by 2030, the second republic has shown no appetite to improve the situation on the ground.

Evidence abound proving that it has a warped reverence for antiquity. The recent erection of Mbuya Nehanda’s statue in Harare is a case in point. It staggers the mind to ponder over the opportunity cost of this madcap buffoonery.

Currently, the citizenry is wallowing in abject poverty. The service delivery systems have gone on holiday. It was a monumental tomfoolery to prioritise the monument while the living scrounge for basics.

Your Excellency, as I see it, homage for Mbuya Nehanda was already sufficiently paid. A road in Harare and a maternity wing at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, the largest public referral medical institution, were named after her.

There was no outstanding debt of gratitude that warranted the costly outlay. If the statue is to be a tourist attraction, as claimed, what draws them will be the risible veneration of the departed amid dilapidated public infrastructure, not at all the alluded to historicity.

As the Malaba conundrum continues, leaving a trail of confounding twists and turns in its wake, it is politic for you, Your Excellency, to rise to statesmanship. It is his responsibility to sober up the stupor. He has to come back to his senses as did the scriptural prodigal son.

Given the blithe unconcern with which you appointed Frederick Shava as Foreign Affairs and International Trade minister, Your Excellency, you have to be diligent, at least for once.

No country, more so Zimbabwe, affords to assign an important ministry with a dual function to a man who has a checkered past.

Three months have passed since the other post of Vice-President fell vacant. Methinks delays in replacing him, coupled with the devil-may-care appointment of a corruption convict to Cabinet and the Malaba saga, expose a leadership hamstrung by mediocrity.

Fare thee well!

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