No respect for biased judiciary

In the wake of what happened after the July 31 elections, I would still like to question the impartiality of our judiciary. I am aware of the minefield into which I am stepping, considering that the judge who was presiding over the MDC-T petitions delivered a stern warning against the petitioners—their lawyers particularly—who were questioning the independence of the justice system. In fact, there was talk of arresting the lawyers for contempt of court, until the AG’s office de

But I am entering the minefield with a relative sense of comfort. Justice Chinembiri Bhunu is on record saying he was prepared to forgive the politicians who were petitioning for the nullification of the poll results because they were not well schooled in legal matters. My appreciation of the law is pedestrian, so the courts wouldn’t be in a hurry to send me to the cooler.

But then, after all, I am a member of the Fourth Estate. That gives me an equal footing with the Executive, Parliament and the Judiciary—the other three arms of government. That means Justice Neither Bhunu nor any other judge has the jurisdiction to pontificate to me when I criticise the justice system. The Fourth Estate is supposed to be independent from the other three and must be accorded the honour it deserves. Chapter 8 of the Constitution states “judicial authority derives from the people of Zimbabwe.” I am one of those people. As a citizen of Zimbabwe, the judiciary owes, or should owe, me its existence.

Before taking the argument further on behalf of MDC-T, I need to point out that I am not an advocate for that party. As I pointed out last week, it made a number of childish errors in its petitions, and I will not be forgiving it any time soon for its glaring lack of strategy.

The one thing I didn’t point out in my last instalment, which I think still deserves attention, is that party’s naïve choice to berate the courts, which it was approaching to get a nullification of the poll outcome. I am not very sure what MDC-T wanted to achieve by pouring scorn on the institution that it wanted to help with its petitions. Some things are better kept unsaid.

But I will say them on their behalf now. In retrospect, it is abundantly clear that the judiciary was hell-bent on throwing the game on behalf of Zanu (PF). I don’t understand the motive and reasoning behind reserving judgement in that court challenge when MDC-T wanted ZEC ordered to release the evidence that the party needed for a just court hearing.

The net effect of the judge’s action in reserving judgement was to kill the case. Why cripple an institution that requires fairness in such a brazen manner, unless you are acting on behalf of another party? What was so complex about compelling ZEC to avail the vital evidence? What were the reasonable grounds for reserving judgement? Not until Justice Bhunu and his team respond to these questions, and in a convincing way, will I depart from my strong belief that the court was a referee who was also playing the game on behalf of Zanu (PF).

I also noted with bemused confusion the manner in which the courts handled the delivery of a judgement on the petitions, which they insisted had to be seen to its logical conclusion. The judgement was supposed to be made on a Monday, but was mysteriously postponed to the following Tuesday. Needless to say, the court had the audacity to describe the polls as free and fair. My impression was that the judgement should confine itself to whether the poll petition by Morgan Tsvangirai had merits or not, and leave an assessment of the polls’ freeness and fairness to another forum. Why was the court so anxious to describe the polls as such, in the absence of a thorough investigation?

If that was not fishy enough, the decision to deliver judgement on a Tuesday allays all doubt about the extent to which the judiciary, contrary to the provisions of the constitution, was at the behest of the Executive, in this case – President Robert Mugabe and Zanu (PF). The constitution says a president must be inaugurated within 48 hours from the time a poll challenge is concluded. If the court had delivered judgement on a Monday, President Mugabe should have been inaugurated by Wednesday. However, as you will remember, on landing in Harare from the SADC Heads of State and Government summit in Lilongwe, the president announced that the inauguration would take place on Thursday.

In that regard, I will be forgiven for believing that the court was forced to adjust its proceedings and timelines to accommodate Mugabe’s Thursday inauguration whim. If this is not bias on the part of the judiciary, I would be convinced that more manna is going to rain from the heavens.

My message to the now not-so-esteemed judiciary is that, before they start talking about arresting lawyers for questioning their integrity, they should put their own house in order. After all, I don’t see anything sacred about the judiciary.

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Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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