LEGISLATIVE watchdog, Veritas, has warned that the government’s plans to amend the Constitution to allow President Robert Mugabe to arbitrarily appoint the Chief Justice could scare away potential investors, as the country would be viewed as disrespectful of the law.
BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
In a commentary, Veritas argued that giving Mugabe excessive authority over the Judiciary would also harm the country’s image.
Parliament has indicated that it will soon hold public hearings to gather people’s views on the Constitutional Amendment Bill (No 1) 2016 that brings changes to the appointment of top position of the Judiciary.
“This attempt to amend the Constitution undermines that work and effort (constitution writing process). Also it may well harm Zimbabwe’s image,” Veritas said.
“We have been congratulated having modern progressive Constitution and changing it so soon will send out the wrong signals. This may be unwise considering the economic situation and that potential trading partners are demanding clear, straightforward and impartial rule of law before investing.”
Zimbabwe is currently scouting for international investors to turn around the comatose economy, with Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa criss-crossing the globe looking for a financial bailout, albeit without success.
Already, Zimbabwe fares badly on issues regarding the upholding of the rule of law, with experts blaming this for capital flight.
The Amendment Bill (No 1) 2016 seeks to remove the public selection process and allow the President to arbitrarily appoint the Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice and Judge President of the High Court.
The Judicial Service Commission was in charge of the public selection process of choosing the next Chief Justice to replace Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, who is due to retire next month.
“It is most regrettable that the government is seeking to amend the Constitution so soon after it was enacted, and for such unsubstantial reasons. The Constitution is the supreme law, the foundation of all other laws in the country,” the legislative watchdog added.
“It may not be immutable, but it should not be amended lightly — and certainly not so as to compromise the independence of the judiciary, one of the constitutional pillars on which the rule of law rests.
“The President’s choice of appointee will be a personal one … That means, almost inevitably in Zimbabwe’s current political climate, those partisan considerations will guide appointments of senior judges.”