SOME magistrates have alleged State capture of the Judiciary, and accused senior officials in the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) of corruption and interference with court processes.
In an open letter dated October 4, 2022 addressed to JSC and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc), the magistrates expressed frustration at the manipulation of judicial processes involving political cases.
“Sadly the issue of capture is no longer a perception but a reality. And the saddest part of this capture is that it is not spearheaded by the politicians. The kingpins (names withheld) of judicial capture are in the JSC itself . . .,” partly read the letter.
“It is an open secret at the magistrate’s court that there is a coterie of magistrates who exclusively deal with certain types of cases, particularly those deemed to be politically motivated.
“This is why political parties including members of the opposition are placed before the so-called Anti-Corruption Courts (ACC) to ensure that the (desired) result . . . is given by the captured ACC magistrates.
“Lawyers can argue themselves hoarse before these magistrates and their clients will never get justice as everything is done in terms of instructions from the JSC.”
JSC secretary Walter Chikwana professed ignorance about the letter when contacted for comment.
“There is no letter that has been sent to JSC. We do not respond to anonymous questions, which are written by nameless people. The letter has to be specific as to who wrote it for us to answer,” Chikwana said yesterday indicating, however, that he was aware of its existence.
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Zacc spokesperson John Makamure also he had no knowledge of the letter.
Last month, Zacc dragged court officials, including JSC to court after bail conditions of Cottco official Maxmore Njanji, who faces a fraud charge involving US$5,8 million, were changed under unclear circumstances. In their letter, the unnamed magistrates claimed that they have been made mere by-standers through questionable decisions made by senior officials in the JSC.
“This is why cases which ought to be disposed of at the close of the State case routinely find themselves on appeal as magistrates in the ACC court have strict instructions not to accede to any application for discharge, however, meritorious such applications might be,” they said.
“The unintended consequence of this is that judges are now reduced to magistrates as their workload has been unnecessarily increased by these unjustified decisions. The majority of bail appeals going to the High Court ought not to be there if magistrates were not acting on instruction from the JSC.”
In 2020, High Court and Supreme Court judges wrote a letter to President Emmerson Mnangagwa protesting Judiciary capture by politicians.
In a letter of complaint, dated October 26, 2020, the judges revealed that morale was at an all-time low within the Judiciary over the alleged interference with their work. They also accused their boss, Chief Justice Luke Malaba of employing an overplaying hand regarding court judgments, adding that many of them were operating in fear of being victimised instead of being objective.
The judges accused Malaba of interfering with magistrates’ decisions through the office of the chief magistrate.