State of Judiciary an international scandal

It is now almost a month since the judiciary downed tools.  People are still being arrested everyday, and justice is ending where it begins - at the police station. 

The judiciary is protesting against horrible working conditions and low salaries.  For the first time in the history of Zimbabwe, the judiciary has decided enough is enough.  As Justice Chinembiri said recently, “Employers turning employees into criminals.”

In ancient civilizations, justice was given supernatural sanctity.  Those who administered justice were representatives of the goddess Justicia. They bore the supernatural authority of a god.  That explains the origin of such titles as “Your Worship” and “My Lord”.

When modern civilisation eroded the supernatural notions of gods, it retained the sanctity of the institution.  Christians hold that Justice is one of the main attributes of God.  Indeed, its absence or misadministration is the cause of conflict, including the armed conflict between nations.  The collapse of justice is a descent into the hell of anarchy.

The Smith regime had its unfriendly episodes with the judiciary in trying to safeguard its grip on power.  Yet some resemblance of sanctity remained. Post-Independence Zimbabwe has set an ugly precedent.  After inheriting a vibrant judiciary, nobody expected that we would sink so low.

Former Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay was dragged from office in a most dishonourable way in a vulgar display of power madness.  It is unfortunate that another judge accepted such a dishonourable appointment.  Few were surprised.  This was around the same time when Godfrey Chidyausiku, a High Court judge, then purported to overturn the Supreme Court ruling on a significant question on land.  

At one time, war veterans led by Joseph Chinotimba invaded the Supreme Court to influence decisions regarding the land question.  This was an indecent assault on the highest court of the land.  Brave members of the bench resigned.  The government was not ashamed.   

The then Minister of Information Jonathan Moyo is on record saying, “Good riddance to bad rubbish.”  What he did not tell us was why the President had seen it fit to appoint rubbish to the sacred bench.  And why he decided to use Chinotimba, instead of the Constitution, to rid the bench of the ‘rubbish’.

But government was not yet done with the bench.  Worse things were still to come.  They invaded their chambers and tapped their telephone conversations.  International blackmail tactics were employed.  Judges were arrested at night, harassed and hauled before the courts.  It is unfortunate that some victims are still on the bench, their mouths shut because their closets are not very clean.

But then how do you deal with the lower courts.  The officers are too many to bribe with farms and cars, and laptops from the Central Bank.  The Judge President Justice Makarau got it right: starve them!

The Zimbabwean Judiciary is a tragedy.  Take a walk around Rotten Row.  The place is rotten.  Our neighbours wonder what kind of a nation we are to turn a blind eye to such an international scandal.  A public courthouse operates for five days without water.  Appeals are not processed because there is no bond paper.  Accused persons admitted to bail remain in custody because there is no bail receipt book.  In-custody prisoners spend six months without having sight of a court because the car has got a puncture, has gone for service, has taken some prisoners to perform for the Minister at some private function, has no fuel or other such stupid reasons.

The judicial officers earn US$16 per month, against R25 000 paid in the region.  $US12 dollars is spent on transport alone because they use commuter omnibuses.  The remainder is consumed by accommodation.  He is still expected to eat and dress according to a prescribed status and shun corruption.  Is that not an international scandal?

The list of scandals goes on and on.  The common denominator is the Minister of Justice, Patrick Chinamasa, the award winning tobacco grower, whom the president saluted for ‘proceeding with party business’ while his son was in a mortuary.  He is happy to see the judiciary in the mortuary, especially just before an election.  Single handedly, he has made history – stripping naked the judiciary of everything sacred and bringing justice to extinction.  All for power.

Surely enough is enough. Chinamasa must resign for reducing our judiciary to such a state.  It is an international scandal.  A civilized people must stand in defence of their sacred institutions.  Civic society must join the judicial officers and say, “Enough is enough! All that is necessary for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing.    


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