High Court judge Justice Judith Mushore has delivered a landmark ruling invalidating the State Liabilities Act, saying it is being used by the government to evade settlement of debts and complying with the court orders.
BY CHARLES LAITON
Justice Mushore delivered the ruling on Wednesday this week in a matter in which a Mutare businessman, Tendai Blessing Mangwiro, had approached the court seeking an order to invalidate the Act which was hindering his efforts to be paid over $1,5 million which was seized from him by the State in 2012.
“Section 5 (2) of the State Liabilities Act (Chapter 8:14) be and is hereby declared to be inconsistent with the Constitution of the Republic of Zimbabwe and is, therefore, invalid,” Justice Mushore ruled, and referred the matter to the Constitutional Court for confirmation of the order.
In the application through his lawyer, Advocate Tawanda Zhuwarara, Mangwiro cited Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo and Attorney-General Prince Machaya as respondents, arguing the Act was inconsistent with the Constitution and, therefore, was infringing on citizens’ rights.
In her 17 page judgment, Justice Mushore said: “At present, the respondents (Mnangagwa, Chombo and Machaya) have been and are continuing to be in contempt. It is to that end that it is my considered view that the respondents consider themselves to be immune to legal consequence by virtue of the validity of section 5 (2),” Justice Mushore said.
“It would be dangerous for this court to endorse wrongful actions and justifications by accepting that their justifications have merit, which they do not … If section 5 (2) is being used to frustrate justice, as is clearly the case in the present matter, then section 5 (2) is not justifiable in a democratic society based upon openness, justice, fairness, human dignity, equality and freedom.”
The judge further said it was apparent that the government officials were positively refusing to obey court orders and in the process “wilfully and deliberately obstructing the court processes” and, as such, their actions were unconstitutional.
Chombo was last year slapped with a 90-day prison term for contempt of court after he reportedly failed to comply with the court order, demanding him to release the money to the businessman.
The judge further said the duty of the courts could never be felt if contempt of court orders were being ignored as though they “ are meaningless pieces of paper”.
Mnangagwa and Chombo were also slapped with costs of suit. Happy Magadure appeared for the respondents.