Latest News Editor's Choice

News / National

Zimbabwe judges must not be fazed by critics, says CJ Malaba

by Staff reporter
02 Aug 2023 at 06:49hrs | Views
JUDGES handling high profile political cases should not be fazed by critics of their legal decisions as the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has their backing and ready to defend them should the need arise, Chief Justice Luke Malaba said yesterday.

The Chief Justice's remarks come hot on the heels of unsubstantiated claims by some members of society, including the opposition, alleging that some court decisions not ruled in their favour, were a directive from the Government.

Speaking during the JSC judges symposium in Gweru, CJ Malaba said judges are apolitical and independent and as such their judgments are based on the tenets of the law.

He said the Judiciary is an independent arm of the State whose decisions are not influenced by any political interests.
"Politics is for politicians and judges know no slogans. In any case, I don't think judges know what a slogan is. We are totally apolitical, we don't think politically but legally and to us the law is the master. Politics is for politicians no matter who they are.

"I want to emphasize this because there is a mistake, a terrible mistake to think that judges must decide in a particular manner which is ridiculous," he said.

CJ Malaba said judicial decisions are based on facts and the rule of law. He implored the generality of citizens to have confidence in the country's judiciary system.

"In a constitutional democracy where the rule of law is a foundational value, you cannot speak of the rule of law without judges. You must have confidence in the judges, you put them there because you have confidence in them.

‘‘They qualify to be called judges because they are impartial,"he said.
Section 164 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe specifically entrenches judicial independence and states that courts must apply the law and Constitution

"impartially, expeditiously and without fear, favour or prejudice.
"So, I don't believe and I don't accept a situation where some people want to make it fashionable to criticise judges for the decisions they make. It just doesn't make sense. You can't do that and still want to be in a democracy. You can't be a person who still wants to be in a democracy and still undermine the rule of law," said CJ Malaba.

He said there should not be any interference in terms of how the judiciary system operates.
"I am standing here to say clearly you are fully protected in your decisions, make your decisions, whatever decisions that come out and if they are legal, make them. There are channels to take when one is aggrieved," he said.

CJ Malaba said the symposium is important for the judges to introspect as individuals in line with the dictates of the Constitution.
He said there is a need to emphasise on competence in terms section 165 (7) of the Constitution.

"Section 165 (7) of the Constitution is critical for us because it simply says you as a judge, a judicial officer, must take personal responsibility to ensure you are professionally up to date.

"The judge must take responsibility, personal responsibility and not institutional responsibility to make sure that he or she has the requisite skill to perform at the highest level," he said.

CJ Malaba said the level is clearly defined by the law.
"The standards of performance are defined by law and they are efficiencies and effectiveness of performance, expeditious performance, decisions that must come as quickly as reasonably possible," he said.

CJ Malaba said judges must try to meet the standards set by the law and act accordingly.
"If we don't do what the law wants us to do, we are in breach of the law, and God forbid that judges should do that. We are the first port of call, custodians of the law and we must know the law better than anyone else," he said.

"We are the experts of the law and that is why we are the embodiment, the custodians of justice. The word ‘justice' is just thrown around several times, but how can we have justice without judges?"

CJ Malaba said he has confidence in the judges and the manner in which they perform their duties.

"I have all the confidence in the men and women I have. We are all equal, we answer to the same standards, same aspirations, we answer to the demands of the Constitution because we are judges."

CJ Malaba said JSC should thrive to meet world class justice. He challenged judges to expeditiously deliver judgments.
"As judges we should deliver judgments within six months because your job is to deliver. Your job is to dispose of disputes, to solve disputes and don't postpone disputes because people don't come to court for disputes to be postponed but to be resolved," he said.

The JSC boss said pre-trial conferences must be speeded up by the judges so that the matters are resolved on time.
"The law says your case must be finished and on time. The law says finish the matter, and judicial power is with the judge. We are there as JSC to put in place measures that will make your job easier," he said.

"My job as chairperson of JSC is to ensure that there are measures that guarantee efficiency like giving you gadgets such as laptops. Use them because in those gadgets, there are systems that we put in place to make your job easy."

Early this year, JSC launched the second phase of the Integrated Electronic Case Management System (IECMS).
The IECMS system is a web-based Case Management System that automates and tracks all aspects of a case life cycle, from initial filing through disposition and appeal.

The system allows for information sharing between systems from all stakeholders in the judiciary.
So far, the Constitutional court, the Supreme Court as well as the commercial division of the High Court, including the Labour Court and the Administrative Court have gone paperless.

"IECMS has come and therefore you need to stop this business of using papers. Other divisions are coming in very soon, we have gone through the Labour Court and the Administrative Court and I am saying as the Chief Justice, I don't want to hear the Labour Court talking about papers, that must stop," said CJ Malaba.

"We have to stop that exercise, no papers, we have provided everything and the technical people. IECMS is there to increase efficiency of the court, remove paper work."

In the future, the system will integrate with systems from organisations such as the Zimbabwe Republic Police, Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services, Law Society of Zimbabwe, Attorney General's Office, National Prosecuting Authority, Legal Aid Directorate and Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Court.

Source - The Chronicle