DEAR Mr President,
The Judiciary stands as an independent arm of the State together with the Legislature and the Executive, but reports of interference in its operations seem to be increasing by the day.
As a branch of the State which administers justice, the Judiciary clearly is expected to exercise discretion without interference from the other arms of the State, but the Executive’s role now seems to be betraying that part.
Courts should not be subject to undue influence from the other branches of the State, private or partisan interests, we know, but a worrying trend has been witnessed of late giving lawyers and opposition actors reason to conclude that the Judiciary has been captured by the Executive.
The argument gained traction, especially during the lockdown where the opposition claimed some of the judgments on political issues by the Judiciary were influenced by the government as a weapon to decimate all opposing voices.
Opposing bail, where it is constitutionally permissible for suspects, also strengthened the argument of those who felt there was no reason at law to deny the suspects their constitutional right.
A judge, who recently granted bail to MDC vice-chairman Job Sikhala, Justice Erica Ndewere, has now been suspended by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) for transgressions not made public, which leaves room for speculation.
All what is known is that she is accused of “misconduct and conduct inconsistent with being a judicial officer”, but the charges against her are at the moment not clear, raising suspicion that she could have “misfired” in the eyes of the ruling elite by granting Sikhala bail.
The JSC, headed by Chief Justice Luke Malaba, has referred the matter to you, Your Excellency, to appoint a tribunal to “inquire into the question of removal from office of Justice Ndewere”.
Your Excellency, you are set to appoint a tribunal to make inquiries into the question of removal from office of Justice Ndewere.
Rumour mill has it that before delivering judgment, Justice Ndewere ignored unofficial protocol to give the judgment to “spies in the judicial structures” beforehand.
Law expert Alex Magaisa made this prediction soon after the bail hearing: “Don’t underestimate the courage of the judge who gave Sikhala bail. I wouldn’t be surprised if she suffers for it. When you do things against the system’s wishes, the system finds something to hit you with. Sooner or later, you will hear they are investigating Justice Ndewere for this and that.”
Whatever is happening in the judiciary stinks to high heaven.
The apprehension is palpable among the bench when it comes to handling political matters and this has become a cause for concern.
We have seen some magistrates make shocking and often incoherent statements, just to avoid making a ruling on sensitive political matters.
Justice Ndewere’s issue comes as Supreme Court judge Justice Francis Bere is on suspension pending the outcome of the tribunal that probed him that is now compiling its report for your consideration and only then will his fate be known.
Justice Bere’s investigations were concluded in his absence after he and his legal team walked out during the proceedings in protest over an issue they were not happy with.