By Byron Mutingwende
The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) has applauded the recent appointment of the Chief Justice as a signal of compliance with constitutional democracy. Luke Malaba was the Deputy Chief Justice before his appointment as the new Chief Justice, taking over from Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku who retired in February 2017.
The coalition of civil society organisations said that the appointment of the Chief Justice was procedural and legal since it was in line with Section 180 of the Constitution which provides that the Chief Justice is appointed by the President from a list of three nominees selected by the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) following advertisements and the holding of public interviews.
CiZC said the decision upheld the supremacy of the Constitution and it reiterated its unparalleled position against amending the Constitution through the imposition of unprogressive clauses that not only undermine constitutional democracy, but defeats the principles of meritocracy and separation of powers as guaranteed by the Constitution. In that realm, the move was interpreted as a defence of the Constitution and judicial independence in Zimbabwe.
“As Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition we take this opportunity to reassert our opposition to the Constitutional Amendment Bill No. 1 of 2016, which seeks to change the appointment procedure of the Chief Justice, deputy Chief Justice and the Judge President of the High Court. In our view the proposal to amend section 180 of the Zimbabwe Constitution of 2013 will bestow executive authority in the Presidency in the appointment of the Chief Justice, deputy Chief Justice and the Judge President of the High Court.
“We are of the view that the amendment to the Constitution seeks to introduce excessive executive powers to the presidency and defeats the gains secured through the enactment of the Constitution on the principle of separation of powers,” CiZC said in a statement Wednesday.
The appointment of the Chief Justice applying Section 180 of the Constitution signifies a defeat of the legacy of the Lancaster House Constitution amended 20 times.
CiZC implored the legislature and the Executive to abandon at once, plans to amend the Constitution and appoint the deputy Chief Justice.
“We also encourage all Zimbabweans to celebrate the victory of constitutionalism against wicked will.”