Court gives JSC 15-day ul­ti­ma­tum

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Feature/crime & Courts - Fidelis Mun­y­oro Chief Court Re­porter

THE Ju­di­cial Ser­vice Com­mis­sion (JSC) has been given 15 days to file heads of ar­gu­ment for the case in which it is chal­leng­ing the High Court de­ci­sion to stop pub­lic in­ter­views to choose the coun­try’s next Chief Jus­tice.

In a let­ter writ­ten to JSC lawyers, Messrs Kan­tor and Im­mer­man on Tues­day, the su­pe­rior court said upon fail­ure to com­ply with the in­struc­tion, the ap­peal would be deemed as aban­doned.

Ac­cord­ing to the let­ter, the records of ap­peal were re­ceived at the Supreme Court on the same day.

“I now call upon you to file heads of ar­gu­ment within 15 busi­ness days from the date of ser­vice of this let­ter,” reads the let­ter.

“Please note that if you fail to com­ply with the above, the ap­peal shall be re­garded as aban­doned and shall be deemed dis­missed.”

The let­ter was also copied to lawyers Messrs Ven­turas and Sa­mukange, who are act­ing for Univer- sity of Zim­babwe stu­dent Romeo Taombera Zibani, who won the case to stop pub­lic in­ter­views for the Chief Jus­tice of Zim­babwe in the High Court re­cently.

Zibani, a fourth-year law stu­dent, suc­cess­fully chal­lenged the JSC’s de­ci­sion to con­duct pub­lic in­ter­views for the post of Chief Jus­tice, pend­ing the amend­ment of the Con­sti­tu­tion.

JSC ap­pealed to the Supreme Court and pro­ceeded with the in­ter­views.

Deputy Chief Jus­tice Luke Mal­aba, JSC sec­re­tary and Zim­babwe Elec­toral Com­mis­sion chair­per­son Jus­tice Rita Maka­rau and se­nior judge at the apex court Jus­tice Padding­ton Garwe were in­ter­viewed.

Af­ter the in­ter­views, Gov­ern­ment gazetted Con­sti­tu­tional Amend­ment Bill No. 1 of 2016 pub­lished in the Gen­eral No­tice 434 of 2016.

The Bill seeks to amend Sec­tion 180 of the Con­sti­tu­tion and do away with the con­duct­ing of pub­lic in­ter­views to se­lect can­di­dates for the es­teemed posts of Chief Jus­tice, Deputy Chief Jus­tice and Judge Pres­i­dent of the High Court.

Once the Bill be­comes law, Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe will have un­fet­tered dis­cre­tion to ap­point his choice when­ever such va­can­cies arise.

Gov­ern­ment last month said it was amend­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion on the ap­point­ment of the Chief Jus­tice af­ter find­ing it­self in an awk­ward po­si­tion in which se­nior mem­bers of the JSC tasked with con­duct­ing the in­ter­views ended up be­ing the can­di­dates.

Sec­re­tary for Jus­tice, Le­gal and Par­lia­men­tary Af­fairs Mrs Vir­ginia Mab­hiza said the drafters of the supreme law, which came into ef­fect in 2013, failed to recog­nise a sit­u­a­tion whereby those ex­pected to con­duct the in­ter­views would be­come as­pi­rants.

This, she said, made the pro­ce­dure for the in­ter­view­ing of judges by the JSC in­ap­pro­pri­ate as ju­nior mem­bers of the com­mis­sion ended up be­ing tasked with de­ter­min­ing the suit­abil­ity of their se­niors.

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