Mt. Darwin – Residents in Mt Darwin in Mashonaland Central province yesterday defended current provisions in the constitution outlining the appointment process of the Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice and the Judge President.
Part of Constitutional Amendment Bill (Number 1) seeks to give the President unchecked powers to appoint the three top judges, while the other part seeks to clarify the fact that matters heard in the Labour Court and Administrative Court can be appealed to the High Court.
During a public hearing organised by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to gather people’s views in terms of Section 328 (4) at Mt. Darwin Sports Club on Wednesday, February 23, 2017, the residents gave varied reasons for their rejection of the section of the Constitution Amendment Bill dealing the judicial appointments.
The opposition to the Bill gazetted in December 2016 centred on either the fact that the proposed changes have come too early while the Constitution is still new and unimplemented, or on the substance of the amendment Bill itself regarding appointment of the three top judges.
ZimRights members also attended the meeting.
Kelvin Nzimba said: “We feel that the amendment has come too early before the constitution has even been given time to work. If the Constitution is amendment too easily, it means we might end up with 100 amendments in a five years.”
Kudzanai Hiya said: “It is not wise to amend the constitution because we will serve the interests of some people. The president should remain with the current powers.”
Motion Moses said: “There is need for a broad discussion before the appointment of the Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice and the Judge President.”
“The president should must appoint after public interviews,” said another resident.
“We think that there should be first a list of candidates and then the president nominates one,” said one speaker who only identified herself as Sangana.
Another resident said there was need to clarify the fact that the Labour Court and the Administrative Court are subordinate to the High Court, but defended current provisions regarding the appointment of top judges.
“The conditions of service for judges of the Labour Court and Administrative Court are okay,” he said.
“But what has come from the Labour and Administrative courts should be able to be reviewed by a panel of High Court judges, but not by one judge.
“I think for the top judges there should be public interviews first and then the President appoints one person.”
Tambu said: “I think it is fair enough for the High Court to review what comes from lower courts such as the Labour Court.”
Another participant said: “I think that after public interviews the president will then need to appoint successful ones depending on the qualifications of the selected candidates.”
“The president must not appoint the Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice and the Judge President. This can lead to favouritism and make the President not appoint the rightful person to the rightful position,” said a resident called Taurai.
Another speaker who identified himself as Madzo said: “The president should not appoint judges because this will compromise the independence of the judiciary.
“The Judicial Service Commission must have its independence.
“When the President appoints there is an appearance of bias.”
James Zvobaiwa said: “The president should appoint alone he is someone who is mature. I do not think he will interfere with judges. He won’t be there when judges decide cases.”
Divas Chipangura said: “Since I grew up, I have seen the president being there. I think he should appoint alone.”