Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku’s clarion call for the Executive to desist from interfering with court processes and trying to influence court outcomes by offering unsolicited legal opinion on matters pending before the courts has come as sweet music to the ears.
Officially opening the 2011 legal year at the High Court in Harare on Monday, Chief Justice Chidyausiku read the riot act to politicians who abuse their authority by trying to influence judicial officers into giving judgments favourable to them or their kith and kin.
For years now, the integrity of the country’s judicial system had come under severe threat as those with political connections in high places have sought to use their connections to get favourable judgments in cases they had interests, thereby subverting justice.
It is important that all those responsible must walk the talk. There has to be sincerity in the calls by the Chief Justice.
His sentiments, when it comes to implementation, must not be partisan, but must cut across the political divide if they are to be taken seriously.
The record of the relationship between the Executive and the Legislature is not a clean one.
History has recorded how some judges were hounded off the Bench, thrown into dingy police cells and some even fled the country after delivering judgments unfavourable to certain politicians.
There has to be a clear separation of powers between the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary as noted in the country’s supreme law, and this should not be just on paper, but in practice too.
But we have seen in the past efforts by those in power seeking to interfere with the due process of law.
The arrest of businessman-cum-fitness trainer Temba Mliswa, believed to be a relative of Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa, last year is a case in point.
Mutasa, together with Home Affairs co-minister Theresa Makone, left no stone unturned in trying to secure his freedom before the due process of justice had run its course.
In the past, there have also been cases in which the courts ruled in favour of white commercial farmers whose farms had been earmarked for compulsory acquisition, but the government, acting on the word of the Executive, went on to grab those farms.
There was also a shameful incident when some political party’s sycophants danced and urinated in a court building protesting against a ruling.
We pray that as we begin this New Year, there is going to be a new political culture in which court judgments are going to respected.
This is one of the things that will surely make us acceptable and respected among the community of nations.
With the international community trailing its gaze on us, it is important to prove to them that we are a civilised society and one of the ways for doing so is through reverence to our legal system, including respect for judicial offices, court processes and the judgments passed, whether or not we agree with them.
The Executive and the Legislature must appreciate that it is the constitutional mandate of the Judiciary to interpret the law and apply it, providing legal solutions to legal problems.
However, we accept as inevitable that now and again political disputes spill into courts.
We would expect our politicians to appreciate that courts are not political tribunals and judicial officers are qualified to deal with the matters of law before them without the unsolicited intervention of politicians.
We also encourage politicians to appreciate that the law has no favouritism, but will work for and against, everyone under the right conditions. It is imperative for all to live and work within the law.