THE out pouring of anger from government and Zanu PF officials following the High Court ruling that former Chief Justice Luke Malaba’s term of office ended on Friday midnight was beyond comprehension.
Justices Happias Zhou, Edith Mushore and Helena Charehwa ruled that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s extension of Malaba’s term by five years was illegal as serving judges could not benefit from the new law according to the Constitution.
Changes to the Constitution were also supposed to be subjected to a referendum, which was not done, the judges ruled.
The threats from Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi are appalling and serve to confirm the hypocrisy of the administration parading itself as the Second Republic.
The language was crass and devoid of logic expected of a minister, who sounded more like an overbearing thug without to regard the law and its processes.
Ziyambi thundered: “I want to make it clear that we do not accept the decision of the High Court. We have a serious situation of a Judiciary that has been captured by foreign forces in this country.”
His unscholarly remarks show why we need an independent Judiciary, which can serve as the last bastion to protect the rights of Zimbabweans which Ziyambi and his ilk are keen to trample on.
The ruling by the three judges was based on law as they interpreted it. If Ziyambi and his paymasters do not like it, there are processes they are supposed to follow at law without making threats against the judges.
To complain is one thing but to impugn the entire judiciary so recklessly is another and the minister ought to remember that the nation and the world are watching. What transformation of the justice system is the minister talking about? Purging all judges that exercise their minds at law?
Ziyambi’s threats simply show that Zimbabwe is sliding into a constitutional crisis where the government ignores the ruling of the judiciary when it feels like it. The minister wants to poke the judiciary in the eye because it has become the enemy for daring to rule that the government was breaking the very Constitution it is supposed to uphold.
It is a declaration of war and a affront to judicial independence. It is a shame that 41 years after independence, Zimbabwe is stuck with Soviet-era dictum.
We hope Ziyambi’s outburst is not reflective of his principal, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s line of thinking.
Legal expert and law lecturer at Kent University in the United Kingdom, Alex Magaisa noted: “Take a look at the vitriolic attack on the High Court judges and in particular Justice Zhou. Clearly the threats of “transformation” of the Judiciary are an attack on independent judges. This is the reaction of a wounded regime. But this happened because of incompetence.”
We could not agree more.