Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
Government will not speculate over circumstances that led to High Court judge, Justice Edith Mushore’s failure to attend to her duties for several months, but will allow a tribunal constituted by President Mnangagwa to unravel issues around her absence from work.
President Mnangagwa yesterday swore in a three-member tribunal to be chaired by retired judge, Justice Maphios Cheda, to investigate Justice Mushore’s suitability to hold office.
Justice Mushore is accused of failing to report for duty for several months.
This comes as President Mnangagwa received a report on the findings of a committee set up to investigate the suitability to hold office of Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Thompson Mabhikwa.
The tribunal will be chaired by retired Justice Cheda and has legal practitioners — Advocate Charles Warara and Ms Yvonne Masvora as members.
In an interview after a brief ceremony to swear in the three-member tribunal, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said it was the tribunal that would provide clarity as to why the judge failed to report for work as expected and make recommendations on the validity of reasons that would have been proffered.
“That is what he (Justice Cheda and committee members) is going to tell us. He is going to go through all that, try to find out where she is, find out the circumstances and then write a report to say these are the circumstances, the person is AWOL, maybe sick, then come up with recommendations. At this juncture, we do not want to speculate, maybe she is sick,” said Minister Ziyambi.
He said failure to report for work by a judge was treated differently from an ordinary person who would have done so in that provisions of the Constitution would be invoked with regard to a judicial officer such as a judge.
“It is different from an ordinary person, this is a judge. A judge’s removal is in terms of the Constitution whereby the Judicial Service Commission will inform the President of the circumstances that this person has not been coming to work. That is a serious thing to do and when the President is informed, the Constitution obliges him to set up a Commission of Inquiry to look into these issues and then make recommendations,” Minister Ziyambi said.
He said the Government had confidence in the calibre of members constituting the tribunal given their rich legal backgrounds.
“This is our retired judge and we have two seasoned lawyers and we believe they will carry out this call of duty very well. He (Justice Cheda) has chaired several commissions appointed by the President and we are very confident that this will be done within the shortest period of time,” Minister Ziyambi said.
Justice Cheda said the tribunal presumed that Justice Mushore had a good reason for her failure to come to work.
“If you are not coming to work, you must have a reason, that could be a good reason or a bad reason but reasonable grounds. As of now, I do not know why the Honourable judge has not been attending to her duties. We will have to find out, we presume that she has a good reason, she will tell us. All I know is that there has been a complaint that she has not been reporting for duty,” he said.
Justice Cheda said they will start their work soon, with a preparatory meeting already lined up.
Meanwhile, President Mnangagwa has received a report from a tribunal he constituted last year to investigate the suitability of Justice Mabhikwa to hold office after he was accused of being involved in an intimate relationship with a subordinate at his workplace.
The tribunal chaired by retired judge, Justice November Mtshiya, handed its report to President Mnangagwa yesterday.
In a brief interview after a meeting with the President, Justice Mtshiya said his tribunal got cooperation from all parties involved in the inquiry.
In setting up the tribunal, President Mnangagwa said in a Statutory Instrument published in the Government Gazette that the panel should investigate whether Justice Mabhikwa’s conduct “can be deemed to have been tantamount to gross misconduct”.
He also proclaimed that the tribunal should “investigate whether or not the judge (a) committed acts of sexual harassment (b) possessed pornographic material and to investigate any other matter which the tribunal may deem appropriate and relevant to the question of removal from office of a judge in terms of the law”.
Yesterday’s ceremony was attended by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi and senior Government officials.