‘Deputy CJ appointment unstoppable’

HARARE – With President Robert Mugabe set to appoint a deputy chief justice (CJ) any time from now, legal experts say pending court applications challenging the passage of Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill No. 1 will not block the process.

In terms of the Constitution that came into effect in 2013, the CJ and his or her deputy are to be appointed after the conducting of public interviews by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

However, the amendment of Section 180 of the Constitution accorded Mugabe singular authority and unfettered discretion to Mugabe to appoint the CJ, deputy CJ and judge president of the High Court of his choice whenever there are vacancies for such posts.

Pursuant to the passage of the Bill, two prominent MDC MPs — Innocent Gonese and Fungayi Jessie Majome — approached the court initially challenging the passage of Amendment Bill No. 1.

Following Mugabe assenting to the Bill, the MPs went back to court challenging the law, which legal experts said the effects of its function will not be suspended by the mere fact that an application had been filed before the courts.

“An application does suspend the process. What should be done is to file an application for stay of the process, but a mere application without suspending the process will not stop anything,” prominent Harare lawyer Tonderai Bhatasara said.

Another lawyer, Marufu Mandevere, also concurred with Bhatasara that such an application would not suspend the process of appointing deputy CJ through a mere naming by Mugabe.

“The application does not stop the process in the absence of an application for stay of the proceedings,” Mandevere said.

In their application, the two MDC officials, however, argued that Mugabe could not have signed an Act that was void.

“To the extent that the president has now signed the Bill, it is now necessary to file this application which is directly connected and interlinked with Case Number CCZ 57/2017 (earlier application). Naturally this matter in Case Number CCZ 57/2017 have to be consolidated together at the time of the hearing,” Gonese said in his founding affidavit.

“Once a finding is made that Parliament breached its constitutional obligations as contended in Case Number CCZ 57/2017, it is quite clear that the president has nothing to assent to. 

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