Law experts yesterday demanded the resignation of Chief Justice Luke Malaba over allegations of interfering with judges in the discharge of their duties, which they said indicate a crisis in the judicial system.
They said Malaba’s antics called into question the independence of the Judiciary and damaged its international standing.
The call follows a damning letter by judges of the three senior benches to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, accusing Malaba of interfering with their duties.
The letter exposed the long held belief that the judicial system had been captured and designed to serve partisan interests.
“Judges have been complaining quietly for years, and so it’s only now coming out because they are fed up. Malaba is a bully. It demonstrates the serious crisis in the third arm of the state,” law expert Alex Magaisa said.
Political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said the letter by the judges was an indictment on the Chief Justice and further damaged the country’s reputation.
“The judges’ letter exposes what has been a public secret over time that the Judiciary is compromised, captured and serves the political and other powerful elites,” Mukundu said.
“If you have the right political connections and resources then the courts are in your pockets. This is a serious indictment of Chief Justice Malaba. It prompts soul searching, but knowing the arrogance within the political elite and the Judiciary, this will be dismissed with contempt.
“What this does is to further damage Zimbabwe’s image and our international standing. No investor or partner wants to engage a country in which the Judiciary, more so, the highest court, interprets the law to suit partisan interests.”
In the letter dated October 26, 2020, the judges signed off as “your long-suffering judges”, indicating their frustration with how Malaba, who also chairs the Judicial Service Commission, was running the Judiciary.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition director Blessing Vava weighed in, saying: “It just shows that the centre is no longer holding, it seems there are too many centres of power within the Mnangagwa administration.
“On the other hand, the statement by the judges confirms our long-held fears that the Judiciary was no longer acting and serving in the interests of justice, but rather serving the interests of certain political figures.”
He said the persecution of opposition and civil society activists using the courts confirmed it.
Opposition parties, civic society and activists have often alleged state capture of the Judiciary, citing the manner in which those perceived to be anti-government are “persecuted” instead of prosecuted.
“Those who have committed the corruption are scot-free, they have not returned a single dollar of the money, they have not been arrested or tried. The US$15 billion is still missing. Those who speak out against corruption are in leg irons and put in Section D, the most dangerous of Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison.
The opposition MDC Alliance said the judges’ letter had exposed the State capture of the Judiciary.
“This is what we have been saying,”Clifford Hlatywayo, the MDC Alliance deputy spokesperson said.
“The courts are captured by political elites. Malaba is an appointee of Mnangagwa and he returned the favour by declaring him the President. Zimbabwe is in this legitimacy crisis because of captured Malaba.”
He said the judges had now exposed that they could not breathe.
“However, they are writing to the wrong person. Mnangagwa is the appointing authority who appointed and gives specific assignments to Malaba. The people of Zimbabwe stand with judges. We don’t want a captured Judiciary. Malaba must resign for the sake of professional justice.”
Government has not denied the authenticity of the letter.