Harare, January 14, 2015 – The legal fraternity has heaped praise on the country’s Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku for breaking new ground by publicly appraising the performance of judges.Chidyausiku, who on Monday presided over the official opening ceremony of the 2015 legal year, publicly disclosed how the country’s judges had performed in 2014 and commended four High Court judges for their positive work rate.The head of the judiciary who also serves as the chairperson of the Judicial Service Commission praised High Court judges Justices Nicholas Mathonsi, Nokuthula Moyo, Priscillah Chigumba, Loice Matanda-Moyo and Charles Hungwe as top performers in dispensing justice.
In response to Chidyausiku’s statement, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) and the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) applauded THE Chief Justice for taking such an initiative which the two organisations said is meant to enhance the administration of justice in the country.
“The steps taken by the Honourable Chief Justice to publicly appraise the performance of judicial officers in all courts is a positive and groundbreaking first step in applying public scrutiny to the fulfillment of constitutional and legal obligations by public officers. As the Chief Justice himself stated, “Judicial authority is derived from the people of Zimbabwe, to whom [the judiciary] is accountable for [its] performance as judicial officers,” ZLHR said in a statement released Tuesday.
ZLHR, the country’s leading defence group said it had noted the positive work rate of a number of judges mentioned by Chidyausiku and the improvement in the speed with which many cases are disposed of, and judgments delivered, in several of the country’s courts.
“Of course, there is still work to be done, and the issue of reserved judgments, the slow pace of other cases currently pending before the courts, and slow delivery of judgments by other judicial officers, all remain a concern and a focus for improvement in 2015,” ZLHR said.
The LSZ said the judiciary had thrown away its reticence and opened itself to scrutiny hence fulfilling the principles of transparency, justice, accountability and responsiveness.
“The LSZ associates itself fully with the sentiments expressed by the Chief Justice that judicial authority is derived from the people of Zimbabwe thus the opening of the legal year is a symbolic surrender by the judiciary to public scrutiny. Thus the LSZ would particularly congratulate the Chief Justice for the truthful and candid approach in his speech marking the official opening of the legal year. The LSZ particularly notes the Chief Justice’s remarks on the performance of some the High Court Judges. The Chief Justice gave praise where it was due but was equally scathing in his attack on non-performers whom he felt had no excuse for their non-performance. As a stakeholder in the justice delivery system, the LSZ believes that such an approach is progressive as it correctly informs on appropriate strategies to be adopted,” the LSZ said in a statement.
The lawyers’ regulatory body congratulated judicial officers who were singled out by Chidyausiku for working hard even in an environment where resources are constricted and conditions are not the best. “These officers have exhibited a greater appreciation of their roles as judicial officers,” the LSZ said.
Both ZLHR and LSZ urged other judicial officers to improve their performance and challenged other actors in the justice delivery chain such as the Zimbabwe Republic Police, the National Prosecuting Authority and the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service to replicate the positive steps taken by the judiciary, through the Chief Justice and the JSC.