By Professor Matodzi
Harare, July 29, 2015 – Four more High Court judges have been exposed by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) for their lackluster performance which is affecting the administration of justice in the country.
The JSC blew the whistle on the judges namely Justice Felistus Chatukuta, Justice Mary-Zimba Dube, Justice Amy Tsanga, Justice Joseph Mafusire including Justice Tendai Uchena and Justice Happias Zhou in a memorandum in which Acting Registrar of the High Court Thembinkosi Msipa raised concern over the judicial officers’ delays in handing down judgments in some matters which they presided over.
In a memorandum written by Msipa for the attention of Judge President George Chiweshe, the Acting Registrar charged that the judges had not delivered written judgments in eight matters which they had dealt with from as far back as 2012 and which had been taken to the Supreme Court on appeal but could not be heard as the records of appeal were not ready.
“Judgments in these matters have not yet been made available as a result the records of appeal cannot be prepared. The Chief Registrar has directed our office to bring this to your attention so that these judgments may be written in order to enable the Supreme Court to deal with the appeals. Respectfully submitted for your guidance,” reads part of Msipa’s memo to Chiweshe which was seen by Radio VOP.
Justice Chatukuta is yet to deliver judgment for a case in which one Weston Msimbe filed an appeal against the State while Justice Mafusire is yet to hand down judgment in a case filed last year in which former Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo noted an appeal in November last year.
According to Msipa, Justice Tsanga has not delivered a judgment in a matter in which Ignatious Chirenje noted an appeal in October last year while Justice Dube is yet to hand down judgment in a case filed in 2013 in which Sean Doran noted an appeal against W&D Consultants in October last year.
Justice Zhou has not delivered judgment in three cases whose appeals were noted in March and August last year while Justice Uchena has issued judgment in a case in which the chairperson of the Civil Service noted an appeal against one Patrick Chinhoro in October last year.
Justice Zhou and Uchena were first named in February by the JSC among five High Court judges who included Justice David Mangota, Justice Francis Bere and Justice Erica Ndewere who had outstanding judgment in matters on appeal to the Supreme Court.
In exposing more judges for their sluggish performance for failing to timeously hand down written judgments, the JSC appears to be pressing ahead with its new thrust of publicly appraising the performance of judicial officers.
Early this year, JSC chairperson Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku introduced the new practice of public appraisals of the performance of judicial officers in a groundbreaking first step in applying public scrutiny to the fulfillment of constitutional and legal obligations by public officers.
In his speech marking the official opening of the 2015 legal year, Chidyausiku brought attention to issues negatively affecting the administration of justice in the country. The Chief Justice named five High Court judges as top performers for the 2014 legal year and exposed some of the judges as so lazy to the extent that they only handed down two written judgments in a year in which some judges among them Nicholas Mathonsi handed down 72 judgments.
But the public appraisal was greeted with contempt by the bulk of the country’s judges who hit back at Chidyausiku for being out of touch with modern trends in the justice delivery system and misleading the nation on their performance. The High Court judges charged that the head of the country’s judiciary had soiled their reputation and dignity through his statement.
The judges then petitioned Chiweshe to submit their formal complaint to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa who also doubles up as Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister and the Judicial Service Commissioners tenders advice to the government on matters relating to the judiciary or the administration of justice.
Besides reporting Chidyausiku to Mnangagwa, the judges also disputed the Chief Justice’s claims that he had created and assembled an exceptional team to run the JSC thereby escalating the feud between the two parties.