BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
THE Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (NGO Forum) is maintaining its objection to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s decision to extend Chief Justice Luke Malaba’s tenure with five years, despite the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) ruling legitimising the top judge’s new term.
The human rights lobby group questioned whether there were no competent judges in the country to hold the office of the chief justice, for Mnangagwa to insist on extending Malaba’s tenure.
In July, the NGO Forum executive director Musa Kika successfully challenged the legality of Mnangagwa’s decision at the High Court, a ruling which was set aside by the ConCourt last week.
Three High Court judges, Justices Happias Zhou, Edith Mushore and Jester Charewa had ruled that all incumbent judges of the top courts could not benefit from the controversial amendment to the constitution extending term their limits beyond retirement age of 70.
Reacting to the ConCourt ruling, ZHR NGO Forum lawyers, who were representing Kika in the High Court application, said it was likely that Mnangagwa had ulterior motives in extending Malaba’s term of office.
“At this stage, we believe the point is eloquently made; that of the revisions to the supreme law, which the people largely opposed, to open the door for a man to continue in office beyond what the supreme law set,” the Forum said in a statement.
“It is not clear, at least to those of us who are the public, whether the illustrious men and women currently constituting our superior courts are unable to become chief justices, or whether the one that the Constitutional Court has now confirmed to be substantive chief justice, is preferred for reasons which are yet to be made public by the president who extended his tenure.
“Whatever the reason, we can only hope to be in the public interest.”
A little known Zanu PF youth league member Max Mupungu lodged a ConCourt challenge against the High Court ruling, which had ended C Malaba’s term of office.
The ConCourt judges dismissed an application by Kika to recuse themselves because they were cited in the earlier High Court case.
He then snubbed the hearing of Mupungu’s application but his lawyers said the ConCourt ruling will not deter it from challenging constitutional violations.
The lawyers expressed dissatisfaction with the court processes in the Malaba saga, which resulted in the ConCourt subsequently setting aside the lower court’s ruling.