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FORMER Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku died in South Africa yesterday where he had gone to seek treatment for an undisclosed ailment. He was 70.
by XOLISANI NCUBE
Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is also in charge of the Justice ministry, confirmed the death yesterday.
“I have just received the sad news that he died two hours ago, we are yet to get more details,” Mnangagwa told NewsDay.
A family member and cousin of the late former top judge, Maria Chogugudza, also confirmed the death.
She said the family was yet to meet and discuss the issue.
“Yes, we have just lost him today in South Africa. We are yet to be apprised of the whole issue. At the moment, we have just sent a family member there to get to know what happened,” Chogugudza said.
Judicial Service Commission (JSC) deputy secretary, Walter Chikwanha said they were aware of the death, but did not have finer details.
“We have information to that effect, but the commission has not been formally advised and we are trying to get the finer details. Try from the Office of the President and Cabinet, who were dealing with him,” he said.
The former Chief Justice had reportedly gone to South Africa for treatment after being admitted at a local hospital soon after stepping down after reaching the age of retirement.
He served as Chief Justice for 16 years following his elevation to the top job at the height of the land reform programme.
In his last days as Chief Justice, Chidyausiku was embroiled in a succession wrangle with the Mnangagwa-led Justice ministry over his successor.
The executive wanted to amend the current provision of the Constitution on the appointment of the Chief Justice, but the Chidyausiku-led JSC stuck to the law, which demanded the involvement of the public and conducting of interviews to choose the next head of the courts, resulting in the appointment of Chief Justice Luke Malaba last month.
Chidyausiku rose to the top post from being Judge President ahead of senior jurists then in the Supreme Court such as the late highly-respected Wilson Sandura to succeed Anthony Gubbay, who hand been hounded out of office by President Robert Mugabe’s regime.
Before that promotion, Chidyausiku had handed the infamous Mhuriro ruling, which reversed Gubbay’s Supreme Court order that authorised the eviction of land invaders.
In his final address to the judiciary, Chidyausiku reflected on the period with apparent nostalgia.
Chidyausiku, in 1980, was elected into the first post-independence Parliament on a Zanu PF ticket and immediately appointed Local Government deputy minister.
He was later to be appointed as Attorney-General.
He was also appointed to chair of the Constitutional Commission in 1999, which presented the first electoral defeat for Mugabe since independence.