CHIEF Justice (CJ) Luke Malaba yesterday hailed President Emmerson Mnangagwa for appointing two more judges to the Supreme Court bench, but still bemoaned the existing shortage of judicial officers at the apex court.
BY CHARLES LAITON
Justice Malaba made the remarks soon after the swearing-in ceremony of Judges of Appeal, Justices Lavender Makoni and Francis Bere at the Constitutional Court building in Harare.
The appointment of Makoni and Bere brings the total number of judges at the Supreme Court to 13 inclusive of the Chief Justice and his deputy, Justice Elizabeth Gwaunza.
“We are very grateful for the appointment and we have been looking forward to this happening. We declared vacancies in the Supreme Court in 2016 and held interviews where we had eight people nominated,” Justice Malaba said.
“We still need more judges. In our request we needed four judges to add to the existing number and at the moment we still need two more. One of our judges, Justice Susan Mavangira is hospitalised, while Justice Tendai Uchena was appointed chairperson of the Land Commission, meaning both judges will not be with us during this second term, and as a result we remain in the same position as we were before. We, therefore, need more judges.”
In his explanation on why Mnangagwa appointed two judges instead of four out of the eight prospective candidates, Justice Malaba said: “We had our shortlist for prospective candidates and out of that the President has picked just two and above all, there is an interpretation we respect which was adopted.
“The list that was submitted should have provided three names per vacancy, but we failed to meet the requirement because only eight candidates responded. In that respect the freedom of choice for the President was limited.
“He could not nominate the four judges we had asked for and the two appointments he made were exactly within his discretion and in terms of the Constitution.”
Commenting on the quality of the judges, who attended the interview, the Chief Justice said: “All the judges who attended the interviews were capable and suitable
candidates for the Supreme Court and there is no misunderstanding in terms of quality.”
Justice Bere said his hard work and honesty had paid dividends, adding elevation to the Supreme Court is a dream of any judge of the High Court, it being the apex court of the legal profession.
“I am ecstatic, it’s a culmination of 14 solid years of hard and honest work and I am looking forward to the challenges lying ahead … we will not invent the wheel, our work is already cut out for us, and we will complement the existing bench and give it our best as well,” he said.
Justice Makoni said she was equally elated and called for more female judges’ appointment to the High Court bench.
“I am elated considering that this has been in the pipeline for one-and-a-half years and eventually it has happened. I have been at the High Court for the past 16 years and I can fairly say I was familiar with the High Court and I also dispensed some appeal matters expeditiously,” she said.
“The Judiciary Service Commission is trying its best to comply with the Constitution. There is almost a balance between the female and male judges at the apex court, but the High Court still remains a challenge.”