Judiciary can be a strong pillar of governance

Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa

Monday’s Supreme Court ruling that upheld the Chief Justice interviews is a small victory for constitutionalism in Zimbabwe, but more importantly an indicator that the structures for building the country’s democracy are there and just need to be strengthened.

Comment: NewsDay Editor

Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa
Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa

Years gone by, the Executive would have run roughshod over the judiciary, but with the Constitution on their side, judges are able to hold the other pillars of governance — the legislature and the Executive — to account.

As in the past, the Executive can still go on to amend the Constitution and negate the Supreme Court ruling, but what is important is that the judiciary has shown it has bite and will not allow itself to be bullied by the Executive on constitutional issues.

The desire by the Executive to amend the Constitution to give the President more power has always been a curious one and we hope after this setback, the Justice ministry and its principal, Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, would rethink the amendment they gazetted.

Mnangagwa can point out the inadequacies of the law in the way the appointment of the Chief Justice is prescribed, but the manner in which he wants to amend the Constitution reeks of a sinister motive and this has precipitated the avalanche of opposition he has so far faced.

The Constitution is barely four years old and, even with sound legal motives, efforts to amend it now will be viewed with suspicion and it does not help that there are reports that seemed to suggest the Executive was bullying the judiciary over the matter.

There are reports that outgoing Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku had been clandestinely forced into retirement by an Executive that sought to impose its preferred candidate.

There are also reports that Supreme Court judges recused themselves from hearing the Judiciary Service Commission appeal against Justice Charles Hungwe’s ruling and all this raises fears there was underhand scheming to try and stall a constitutional process so that a certain group of people get the person they want as the country’s top judge.

This is enough to send a chill down the spine of anyone, as questions ought to be raised as to what was hoped to be achieved with this underhand plotting and scheming.

Zimbabweans are very sceptical of the judiciary because they feel it always rules in certain ways, but slowly they are having their faith restored and the latest machinations could have dealt that little faith a fatal blow.

The ruling of the Supreme Court shows that the judiciary is finding its feet and can be a strong pillar of governance and can stand up to the all-mighty Executive.