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Chidyausiku squandered opportunity for good


I heard of the passing of Godfrey Guwa Chidyausiku (on the same day he died).

guest column: Chris N Greenland

The late former Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku
The late former Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku

I was indebted to Chidyausiku in a way that cannot be quantified and for which I could have never been able to repay him.

The reasons are set out on my blog site as – “Godfrey Guwa Chidyausiku was the first person to propose that I be appointed as a judge of the High Court of Zimbabwe. What is pertinent to point out to his credit, is that he did this despite that fact that we were neither friends nor naturally empathetic towards each other. We had some rather testy disagreements.”

I was to learn that then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe (now President) and Chidyausiku were in agreement that the judiciary needed to be as racially diverse as our people were if people were to be comforted about its impartiality.

That was a very good approach to justice at that stage.

Regrettably, it is not possible to laud, let alone applaud, Chidyausiku’s participation in the Zimbabwean judiciary and his contribution to its jurisprudence. His legacy is not good.

It started with him being appointed as Chief Justice even though the late Wilson Sandura JA was senior to him and clearly the judge with a better record.

The inference was that this was a reward for Chidyausiku having headed the group that welcomed President Mugabe back into the country after the Lancaster House settlement.

He was the only judge that was comfortable with Mugabe granting a full pardon to one of his acolytes who had been convicted of murder and sentenced to death for dragging a suspect out of a police station and summarily executing him.

Fieldsend CJ, Dumbushena CJ and Gubbay CJ had set an internationally revered standard of judicial independence, impartiality and jurisprudence.

Chidyausiku veered off the path set by his erstwhile predecessors, being unable to maintain the sacred requirement that all are equal under the law, as epitomised by Lady Justice being blindfolded and, therefore, blind to difference in status, race, colour or creed.

He led the Supreme Court in judgments that were biased in favour of the Executive and visited penalties on humans on account of their ethnic roots.

This was brought into sharp focus when the Sadc Tribunal, sitting in Windhoek, Namibia, and staffed by African judges, had no difficulty in overruling Chidyausiku’s judgment upholding Executive land grabs.

Under his stewardship, the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe lost credibility.

As said, Lady Justice is blind to difference.

When human beings are not protected equally under law, as administered by the courts, justice fails.

When humans are unsure of being protected against abuse, particularly by the centres of power, justice fails.

Chidyausiku failed to uphold the rule of law. When a judge assumes office he/she takes an oath to act “without fear, favour or prejudice”.

Chidyausiku failed to uphold this sacred oath.

So as much as we are saddened by his passing, we also feel pangs of frustration at the opportunity for good that Chidyausiku squandered.

Godfrey Chidyausiku CJ, RIP.

Chris N Greenland is a retired judge of the High Court in Zimbabwe and South Africa. He has also worked under and been an expert adviser to three different governments in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia.

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