JSC Demands Judges’ CV’s

By Professor Matodzi

Harare, July 16, 2015 – The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has
asked the country’s judges to submit their updated curriculum vitaes
(CV’s) under some unclear circumstances.
The JSC made the request in a memorandum written to High Court Judge
President George Chiweshe by Thembinkosi Msipa, the Acting Registrar
of the High Court.
“The Judicial Service Commission has asked us to submit updated CV’s
for all judges to head office urgently. We request for your assistance
in making this possible,” reads part of the memorandum seen by Radio
VOP.
Radio VOP could not immediately establish the JSC’s motive for asking
judges to furnish the institution with their updated CV’s.
Among some of the functions, the JSC is tasked with tendering advice
to the government on any matter relating to the judiciary of the
administration of justice and promote and facilitate the independence
and accountability of the judiciary.
In July 2014, Zimbabwe marked a historical turn after the JSC
conducted its first-ever public interviews for the appointment of
Supreme Court judges. In October, the JSC also conducted public
interviews for 46 candidates who had been nominated either by members
of the public or President Robert Mugabe for appointment to fill six
vacancies on the High Court bench.
The public interviews marked the beginning of an experiment to
entrench transparency in the appointment of judges. This followed the
enactment and adoption of the new constitution in May 2013, which
provides for the holding of public interviews of prospective
candidates.
The public interviews for the selection of Supreme Court judges held
last July in Harare were full of drama, comic moments and exposed the
human side of judicial officers after some of them stuttered in their
responses during the interviews with some judges exposing their
ignorance of elementary legal concepts.
Prior to the enactment of the new constitution, judges were appointed
in terms of section 84 of the old constitution where-in the JSC played
a very minimal and peripheral role in the entire appointment process.
Persons regarded suitable for appointment to serve as judges were
identified under an opaque process. Critics charge that such a
procedure created the unfortunate perception that some judges might
have been appointed not on merit but on partisan basis.
But the new appointment system has been a little bit transparent and
is now broader and more pronounced than before as the JSC is now
compelled to advertise positions, invite the President and the public
to make nominations and conduct interviews in public, of the
prospective candidates; and thereafter prepare a list of three
candidates for each post from which the President must make an
appointment.
One qualifies for appointment as a judge of the High Court if he or
she is at least 40 years-old and has been a judge of a court for at
least seven years or if he or she has been qualified to practice as a
legal practitioner.
In April, the JSC singled out five High Court judges namely Justice
David Mangota, Justice Tendai Uchena, Justice Francis Bere, Justice
Happious Zhou and Justice Erica Ndewere for their lackluster
performance, which it alleged, was affecting the administration of
justice in the country.
Msipa charged that the five judges had not delivered written judgments
in five matters, which they had dealt with from as far back as 2011
and which had been taken to the Supreme Court on appeal but could not
be heard, as the records of appeal were not ready.