Judges’ appointments to involve public
ORDINARY Zimbabweans can now influence and determine the suitability or otherwise of aspiring judges by commenting on their behaviour ahead of public interviews for appointment to the bench.
According to the recently published Judicial Service Commission guidelines on appointment of judges, the list of candidates are published before the interviews to allow individuals with adverse information about the nominees to divulge it to assist the nation in selecting quality judges.
If a nominee conducts him or herself unprofessionally or in some way that does not suit someone of the status of a judge, those with such information are called upon to inform the JSC before the public interviews are conducted.
JSC recently published guidelines followed in the appointment of judges, in its quest to promote transparency and constitutionalism.
A 12-page booklet titled Guidelines on the Appointment of Judges was published ahead of the public interviews of eight High Court judges vying for four vacant positions in the Supreme Court. The interviews have been set for September 29. The JSC also sends the list of nominees to the Law Society of Zimbabwe and other relevant organisations for comments on the personality of the candidates, who are all lawyers.
According to the guidelines, JSC will not consider malicious allegations against candidates that are brought up anonymously.
Candidates are informed of the adverse comments made against them and they are also given an opportunity to defend themselves.
“Nominees will be informed of any adverse comments received from members of the public and may be questioned about them at the interview with a view to determining whether or not the adverse comments will have a bearing on the nominee’s probity,” the guidelines read.
The public also plays an integral role in the nomination of the aspiring judges. The nominated candidates also need to sign on the nomination form as confirmation that they will be interested.
JSC, in terms of Section 180 of the Constitution, is mandated to advertise any vacancies arising on the bench and to invite the President and members of the public to nominate suitable candidates.
The same commission conducts public interviews for the prospective judges, deliberates on the performance of the interviewees and later sends its recommendations to the President.
After the interviews, deliberations are done in private and a lot of issues are considered in arriving at a list of successful candidates.
“Deliberations on the suitable nominees will take into account the performance at the interview, any comments from the Law Society of Zimbabwe, any other relevant organisations and or the public as well as the information supplied by the nominees in the detailed questionnaire.
“Deliberations on the final list of suitable nominees shall take into account the diverse and gender composition of Zimbabwe which the judiciary must reflect,” reads the booklet.
For each vacancy, the commission submits three names of successful candidates and the President will make a final appointment.
JSC chairperson, Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku or his deputy chairs the public interviews.
All commissioners, who will be part of the panel, are given an opportunity to ask questions to the interviewees.
Aspiring judges, according to the guidelines, must be competent, hardworking, independent, committed to community and public service and knowledgeable among other qualities.
Commissioners will independently score each nominee on each of the above qualities before they sit to deliberate on the performances as a group.
High Court judges Justices Francis Bere, Priscilla Chigumba, Alfas Chitakunye, Charles Hungwe, Samuel Kudya, Joseph Mafusire, Lavender Makoni and Nicholas Mathonsi will on September 29 be interviewed for four vacancies that arose in the Supreme Court.
Their names have since been published.
Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku