HomeNewsJustice Malaba order draws fire

Justice Malaba order draws fire

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AFRICAN judges have slammed Chief Justice Luke Malaba for ordering judges to submit judgments for “approval” before passing them in court describing the directive as unconstitutional and a threat to judicial independence.

BY SILAS NKALA

Justice Mabala later changed the wording of the directive after pressure from stakeholders.Malaba’s memorandum dated July 16 attracted condemnation from various sectors of the society with the Africa Judges and Jurists Forum (AJJF) in South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe condemning the move.

“The Africa Judges and Jurists Forum (AJJF) has today expressed a firm view that paragraph 2(iv) of Chief Justice Malaba’s memorandum of July 16 in its original or amended form directing Zimbabwean judges to seek approval or have their judgments seen by superiors before being handed down is unconstitutional and a very serious threat to judicial independence, especially individual and decisional independence,” AJJF said.

AJJF secretary-general Martin Okumu Masiga in the statement said the directive needed to be revoked as it had no place in a modern constitutional democracy governed according to separation of powers.

“It amounts to one of those unusual situations where the threat to judicial independence is potentially intra the judiciary and not external which is highly regrettable,” he said.
Justice Malaba had on July 16 directed the Supreme Court, High Court, Labour Court and Administrative Court of Zimbabwe Judges to address concerns raised about the manner in which judgments were handled after being handed down.

“Such concerns which are supposedly the mischief that the Chief Justice was trying to address were not disclosed in the memo unfortunately, leaving the directive open to all sorts and manner of interpretation by the public,” AJJF said.

“The Chief Justice directed in paragraph 2(iv) of the memo as follows: before any judgment or an order of the High Court or Labour Court is issued or handed down, it should be seen and approved by the head of court division. The Chief Justice then instructed that: all heads of courts are advised to bring this information to the attention of all judges.”

AJJF said there was concern on the impact of the directive on the independence of the judiciary, in particular individual and decisional independence that the Chief Justice has a constitutional duty to protect.

The judges body said the “new wording did not reduce the level of public concern on the impact of the Chief Justice’s directive on independence of the Judiciary in Zimbabwe. The amendment does not have any reasonable and robust interpretation; alter the substance of the practice directive”.

The organisation called for the reform of the judiciary if it was to meet international standards.AJJF’s remarks come at a time the opposition MDC Alliance and civic society have often accused the judiciary of bias in favour of the ruling Zanu PF party.

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