President Robert Mugabe has appointed Justice Luke Malaba as chief justice-designate at a time Zimbabwe is in the process of amending the constitution to give the president power to appoint a chief justice without the input of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).
According to the state-controlled Herald newspaper, Malaba, who was deputy chief justice and appointed with immediate effect, came up top in interviews conducted recently by the JSC, closely followed by Justice Rita Makarau and Justice Paddington Garwe.
The appointment was confirmed by presidential spokesperson, George Charamba, who noted that Justice Malaba will be sworn in as soon as he is back in the country after completing his mission outside Zimbabwe.
The country has been attempting to amend the constitution to give power to President Mugabe to appoint a chief justice without consulting the JSC.
In the current constitution, Section 180 stipulates that the chief justice, deputy chief justice, judge president of the High Court and all other judges are appointed by the president.
“… Whenever it is necessary to appoint a judge, the Judicial Service Commission must— (a) advertise the position; (b) invite the President and the public to make nominations; (c) conduct public interviews of prospective candidates; (d) prepare a list of three qualified persons as nominees for the office; and (e) submit the list to the President; whereupon, subject to subsection (3), the President must appoint one of the nominees to the office concerned.
Section 180, Subsection (3) further stipulates that “if the President considers that none of the persons on the list submitted to him or her in terms of subsection (2)(e) are suitable for appointment to the office, he or she must require the Judicial Service Commission to submit a further list of three qualified persons, whereupon the President must appoint one of the nominees to the office concerned. (4) The President must cause notice of every appointment under this section to be published in the Gazette.”
The proposed amendment, said to be alleged political machinations by a faction of the party led by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Zanu PF’s succession battles, appears to have targeted the appointment of another judge favorable to this group.
Critics claim that Justice Malaba was seen as a stumbling block for Mnangagwa to allegedly succeed Mr. Mugabe. The vice president has dismissed these allegations as untrue.
The other Zanu PF faction is said to be led by First Lady Grace Mugabe.
In a related development, the Zanu PF Women’s League has allegedly suspended members of this organ – Eunice Sandi Moyo and Sarah Mahoka – for allegedly undermining the authority of the first lady and engaging in corrupt activities.
The two are alleged to have denigrated the image of the first lady and diverted party funds to their own use. Sandi Moyo and Mahoka, who have been strong supporters of Mrs. Mugabe over the years, are said to have fallen out of favor due to intensifying factionalism in the party.
The Women’s League have accused Sandi Moyo, Mahoka and Zanu PF political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere of causing havoc in the party.
Kasukuwere says the party is deliberately creating untruths about him in order to set in him up with top Zanu PF officials, including Mrs. Mugabe.
Sandi Moyo and Mahoka are now expected to face the Zanu PF disciplinary committee before a decision to either expel or keep them in the party is made by the Politiburo.