High Court judge ‘so­lic­its $20 000 bribe’

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page - Zva­maida Mur­wira

HIGH Court judge, Jus­tice Priscilla Chigumba, re­port­edly so­licited a $20 000 bribe from one of the par­ties in a case she was pre­sid­ing over, the Ju­di­cial Ser­vice Com­mis­sion (JSC) re­vealed yes­ter­day.

JSC chair­man and Chief Jus­tice God­frey Chidyausiku, said they were con­sid­er­ing re­fer­ring the case to Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe for him to set up a com­mis­sion to look into it.

This came out dur­ing an in­ter­view in which, Jus­tice Chigumba was one of eight High Court judges that were be­ing in­ter­viewed by the JSC to be con­sid­ered for el­e­va­tion to the Supreme Court.

Jus­tice Chigumba was grilled by mem­bers of the JSC led by Chief Jus­tice Chidyausiku over a com­plaint that it re­ceived to the ef­fect that the judge had sent an agent to so­licit a bribe from a Mr Kanokanga who was one of the par­ties in a case which she was pre­sid­ing over.

Jus­tice Chidyausiku said the JSC had re­ceived a writ­ten com­plaint from Mr Kanokanga and said while they had asked Jus­tice Chigumba to make a writ­ten re­sponse, she was obliged to com­ment on the al­le­ga­tions since the com­mis­sion was trou­bled over the al­le­ga­tions given that she was now seek­ing higher of­fice.

“I think you are aware that Mr Kanokanga, who was a party in a mat­ter that you presided over has al­leged that you, through a third party (name supplied) so­licited a bribe for your­self and he re­fused and paid a price of los­ing the case. Ob­vi­ously the com­mis­sion­ers are re­ally trou­bled by these al­le­ga­tions,” said the Chief Jus­tice.

“There are cer­tain as­pects of his com­plaints that have a ring of truth, par­tic­u­larly where he said the agent was in­vited to a restau­rant where you and this other per­son were hav­ing lunch. He also said this agent had in­for­ma­tion per­tain­ing to the details of the pro­ceed­ings when in fact he was not present in that court and then of course, the pos­si­bil­ity that the al­leged agent had fab­ri­cated this story. Un­for­tu­nately, as an in­ter­view­ing panel, we do not have the in­ves­tiga­tive ma­chin­ery to de­ter­mine where the truth lies.”

Mr Kanokanga, said Chief Jus­tice Chidyausiku, al­leged that he had been im­pov­er­ished as a re­sult of the judg­ment which saw him be­ing evicted from premises in the cen­tral busi­ness dis­trict.

“Like Caesar’s wife, a judge has to be be­yond re­proach. That’s the dif­fi­culty that the com­mis­sion finds it­self. Ob­vi­ously, the JSC has the op­tion of re­fer­ring the mat­ter to the Pres­i­dent for a ju­di­cial in­quiry to be ap­pointed. That is some­thing that we have to con­sider. The com­plaint that was made is in such a way that we can­not re­ally just dis­miss it with­out a proper in­quiry. It may as well be that the per­son that is al­leged to be your agent took ad­van­tage ei­ther of your re­la­tion­ship and fab­ri­cated this whole thing-that may be one sce­nario or that thing never hap­pened at all,” said Chief Jus­tice. In re­sponse Jus­tice Chigumba de­nied the al­le­ga­tions. She said Mr Kanokanga, by his own ad­mis­sion, was not men­tally sound.

“Mr Kanokanga, dur­ing the course of the trial, had in­di­cated that as a re­sult of this evic­tion, he had be­come un­able to func­tion and had to be treated by doc­tors for a men­tal dis­or­der which arose as he said, from the fact that he had been im­pov­er­ished by the evic­tion. He was very bit­ter. So, to an­swer your ques­tion, I did not di­rectly or in­di­rectly do or cause any­thing to be done which, is in­con­sis­tent with my oath of of­fice as a judge or my duty to dis­pense jus­tice with­out fear or favour or prej­u­dice. I would like Mr Kanokanga, if he has any ev­i­dence that he can avail to the com­mis­sion of what­ever it is, that he is al­leg­ing to avail such ev­i­dence be­cause an al­le­ga­tion which is base­less and with­out foun­da­tion, in my view, ought not to be al­lowed to in­flu­ence any­thing that is ad­verse to­wards me un­less and un­til it is sub­stan­ti­ated,” said Jus­tice Chigumba.

“Just be­cause I was seen hav­ing lunch with some­one does not mean that I am re­spon­si­ble for that per­son’s ac­tions. The ques­tion that you put to me that Caesar’s wife ought to be be­yond re­proach, my re­sponse to that is I have al­ready taken oath of of­fice of be­ing a judge. Be­cause I took an oath of be­ing a judge, I think that my word or my moral pro­bity ought to be be­lieved, the pre­sump­tion should be, I am telling the truth un­til such time ev­i­dence is placed be­fore the com­mis­sion that some­thing un­to­ward hap­pened.”

Deputy Chief Jus­tice Luke Mal­aba weighed in, “The is­sue of al­leged im­pro­pri­ety on your party, is a mat­ter of great concern to the com­mis­sion­ers. Do you know this eat­ing out­let which is op­po­site St John’s Col­lege? How does this per­son place you at that eat­ing place which you have not been to for a long time in the man­ner he says you were with this per­son who ap­proached him (Mr Kanokanga) and said you wanted $20 000? Your po­si­tion, of course, in your re­ply is that this should be dis­missed as a mat­ter of mad­ness,” said Jus­tice Mal­aba.

“Well, he is a self-con­fessed sufferer of men­tal dis­or­der. I have no idea of what was hap­pen­ing in his head. He did say that he takes med­i­ca­tion for chronic de­pres­sion. He did say he blames the owner of the com­mer­cial premises for evict­ing him be­cause it ren­dered him un­able to op­er­ate. I do not know what ef­fect my judg­ment had on him,” said Jus­tice Chigumba.

Chief Jus­tice Chidyausiku also took is­sue about the in­clu­sion of his name and that of Judge Pres­i­dent George Chi­weshe as her ref­er­ees on her cur­ricu­lum vi­tae.

But Jus­tice Chigumba said it was an over­sight as she had for­got­ten to update it.

Other High Court judges that were in­ter­viewed were Jus­tices Charles Hungwe, Al­phas Chi­takunye, Fran­cis Bere, Joseph Ma­fusire, Ni­cholas Mathonsi, Samuel Kudya and Laven­dar Makoni.

Jus­tice Priscilla Chigumba

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