CHIEF Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku will today officially open the 2016 judicial calendar year in what insiders said could be his last as his career edges towards the constitutionally-stipulated retirement age of 70.
BY PAIDAMOYO MUZULU
Chidyausiku (69) has been at the helm of the country’s judiciary since the departure of Justice Anthony Gubbay in 2001.
Section 186 (1) (a) of the Constitution on tenure of office of Constitutional Court judges says: “Judges of the Constitutional Court are appointed for a non-renewable term of not more than 15 years, but they must retire earlier if they reach the age of seventy (70) years.”
Judicial Services Commission secretary Justice Rita Makarau yesterday confirmed that Chidyausiku was in the last year of his tenure on the Supreme Court bench.
“It’s true that he will be going on retirement, but it is not this year and he could possibly open the 2017 judicial year next January if his February birthday date is correct,” Makarau said.
However, top government officials said Chidyausiku would likely leave the Supreme Court bench as early as November this year.
“Normally, the procedure is a retiring officer goes on three months leave just before his official resignation to allow a smooth transition,” the officials said.
According to the Constitution, President Robert Mugabe will appoint a replacement as soon as Chidyausiku steps down.
Chidyausiku’s meteoric rise to the pinnacle of the judiciary in 2001, shocked most of his colleagues after he was appointed ahead of sitting Supreme Court judges such as the late Justice Wilson Sandura. Chidyausiku was at the time Judge President of the High Court.
His term on the Supreme Court bench spawned several landmark rulings like the Jealousy Mawarire case that triggered the 2013 elections and more recently the labour ruling that also caused massive job losses after the bench ruled that employers could terminate workers’ contracts on three months’ notice.
Chidyausiku also chaired the 1999 Constitutional Commission whose draft Constitution was resoundingly rejected in the February 2000 referendum.