By A Correspondent- Underfire Chief Justice (CJ) Luke Malaba has reportedly ordered an investigation into circumstances leading to a private meeting between Judicial Service Commission (JSC) head of secretariat Walter Chikwana and Supreme Court judge, Justice Webster Chinamhora ahead of a hearing that could impact his stay at the apex of the Judiciary.
Justice Chinamhora recused himself from the three-judge panel before it heard an application seeking the arrest of Malaba for defying a High Court ruling that he was no longer CJ.
Critics say the meeting between Justice Chinamhora and Chikwana was meant to put pressure on the judges ahead of the hearing, potentially compromising the judges.
Defence lawyers felt that his recusal compromised Malaba’s case. The remaining two Justices Amy Tsanga and Sylvia ChirawuMugomba heard the case and reserved judgment to this week.
Top human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa on Monday demanded a probe into Chikwana’s conduct, but in response Deputy Chief Justice Elizabeth Gwaunza indicated that Malaba had already ordered a similar probe.
“Thank you for the letter of June 4, 2021, concerning the above-captioned matter and whose contents have been noted. Kindly note, however, that the letter erroneously refers to me as “The chairperson – Acting Chief Justice,” Gwaunza wrote in part.
“On the instructions of the honourable Chief Justice L Malaba, please be advised that the JSC has commenced investigations into the matter concerning the meeting you referred to, as well as the concerned judges’ recusal from the case in question. This is being done in accordance with the relevant regulations and procedures. Kindly also note that the issue of the JSC secretary Mr Chikwana, deposing to affidavits on behalf of the JSC in various litigation, is currently the subject of an appeal before the Supreme Court.”
In her letter on Monday, Mtetwa said the allegations that Chikwana met Chinamhora prior to the court sitting raised questions about the independence of the Judiciary.