By Mary Taruvinga
Anyone accusing the judiciary in Zimbabwe of being compromised by politicians should bring evidence to support the claim, Chief Justice Luke Malaba has said.
In an interview with NewZimbabwe.com on the e sidelines of the swearing ceremony of new five High Court Judges, Malaba said while the bench welcomes criticism it is also fair that those who make the claims must show it up with credible evidence.
“They should bear in mind and reflect the dangers of their criticism. There is a risk of their utterances undermining that independence of the judiciary,” he said.
“It is just their subjective view. Critics criticise because the outcome will not be in their own interests. Even a part appearing before a judge, a party in litigation can influence judiciary independence.
“We are governed. We are a very disciplined profession. We act in terms of the law. We are rule based actors. We act in terms of what the law demands of me, so we have a standard. There is need to understand better and be knowledgeable of the standard by which the judiciary operates before making allegations as much as everyone has freedom to criticise,” he said.
The MDC in particular has accused the judiciary of being captured by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration and the ruling Zanu PF party in particular. In the past few weeks the opposition has expressed anger at the arrest and detention of its senior members as well as the jailing of Ntabazinduna traditional leader the controversial Chief Felix Nhlanhlayamangwe Ndiweni.
Ndiweni was jailed 18 months for reportedly ordering over 20 of his subjects to destroy a home belonging to a villager under his jurisdiction.
MDC argues that the country’s top court massively doctors court outcomes.
Recently, MDC leader Nelson Chamisa accused the executive of causing Ndiweni’s arrest and his conviction arguing it was taboo to jail a traditional leader.
Chamisa has also not hidden his disgust at Malaba’s decision last year to throw out his petition seeking to overturn the results of the presidential elections wonj by Mnangagwa albeit by a slim margin.
Malaba and nine other Judges heard the petition which was livestreamed marking a historical event for the country.
Lawyers have also weighed in arguing some of the judgments being delivered from the bench left a lot to be desired.
“Our concern is not answering criticism in this country. Criticism shows that we are relevant because when people talk about judiciary being captured it suggests we are on the limelight.
“In other words, produce evidence which shows that that there has been a departure from an objective constitutionally entrenched standard which we as the judiciary know very well … and say that the judiciary was supposed to act this way,” Malaba said.
Five judges including Evangelista Kabasa, Christopher Dube Banda, Paul Siyabona Msithu, Sunsley Zisengwe and Webster Chinamhora were sworn in.
They pledged to be loyal and to fulfill what is expected of them as judges.