THE Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has filed opposing papers challenging human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa’s demand for the release of results of Supreme Court judges’ interviews held two years ago.
By Wongai Zhangazha
Mtetwa wanted the results to be made public to promote transparency.
But JSC secretary Walter Chikwana filed opposing papers at the Masvingo High Court on Friday, arguing that Mtetwa had no legal basis to demand the interview results.
Eight High Court judges, who include Justices Charles Hungwe, Lavender Makoni, Alfas Chitakunye, Francis Bere, Samuel Kudya, Nicholas Mathonsi, Joseph Mafusire and Priscilla Chigumba, were interviewed two years ago to fill four vacancies on the Supreme Court bench.
However, in May, only two new Supreme Court judges, Justices Francis Bere and Lavender Makoni, who were at the High Court, were sworn in.
In her application, Mtetwa said one Munamato Mutevedzi, of the JSC, declined to release the scoresheet on the basis that it was “confidential”.
The JSC accused Mtetwa of failing to recognise that in terms of Section 11 of the Administrative Justice Act Chapter 10:28, the appointment of judicial offices did not constitute an exercise of an administrative function as contemplated in her founding affidavit.
“The applicant is ill-advised, both as regards her understanding of the law and her rights with respect to the present application. I aver that on a proper interpretation of the law, her application may be dismissed with costs on a legal and practitioner scale as prayed on this basis alone, as it is no more than an exercise in futility,” Chikwana’s response read.
Mtetwa is challenging the JSC and President Emmerson Mnangagwa to release the results of the Supreme Court judges, arguing that it was of national importance as it involved a crucial arm of government.
In her application filed last month, Mtetwa said the JSC should produce the scoresheets in respect of each candidate interviewed on September 29, 2016 for the four Supreme Court vacancies, a dated copy of the list of qualified nominees matching in number the advertised vacancies, plus two and any and all correspondence exchanged between the JSC and Mnangagwa between September 29, 2016 and May 11, 2018.
She has also demanded that Mnangagwa appoints from the list submitted to him by the JSC the two remaining judges to fill the four vacancies in order of their ranking on the list submitted to him.
The JSC, which is cited as the first respondent, is represented by Addington Chinake of Kantor and Immerman legal practitioners.
Mnangagwa is the second respondent.
Chikwana said for Mtetwa to access the scoresheets, she must demonstrate that she had an unfettered legal right to the information, “with respect, this is not the case”.
“The applicant is seeking wholesale disclosure and surrender of ‘any and all correspondence exchanged between the respondents (president and JSC) between September 29, 2016 and May 11, 2018. This is unheard of. There is no legal principle that supports the granting of such a wide ranging and all-encompassing order,” Chikwana said.
“To grant such an order would be to violate all known legal principles relating to discovery, search and seizure warrants and the like. Counsel for the first respondent will canvass the legal issues more fully in heads of argument to be filled in due course.”