Malaba Says Criticising Court Verdicts Is Breaking The Law, Ahead of 2023 Elections
2 August 2023
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Chief Justice’s Statement on Judicial Criticism Raises Concerns Over Democracy and Rule of Law

By Farai D Hove | In the ongoing symposium being held in Gweru, Chief Justice Luke Malaba made a statement asserting that people who criticize judicial decisions are undermining democracy and violating the rule of law. While he emphasized the independence of judges and their commitment to the rule of law, it is essential to critically examine his claims and their implications.

Luke Malaba with Emmerson Mnangagwa- file pic

The Chief Justice’s assertion that judicial decisions are not influenced by political interests is questionable. The judiciary’s independence is vital, but it is not immune to external pressures, especially in politically charged cases. The perception of impartiality is crucial for maintaining public trust in the judiciary, and any hint of undue influence can erode this trust.

Moreover, Chief Justice Malaba’s claim that judicial decisions are mere “case law” and not “conclusive, national statute” oversimplifies the significance of these decisions. While judges indeed interpret the law through their rulings, their decisions set important precedents that can significantly impact future cases and shape legal interpretations in the country. Therefore, it is crucial for the judiciary to make well-reasoned and unbiased judgments.

The Chief Justice’s dismissal of criticism against judges’ decisions as “ridiculous” is concerning, as it discourages open debate and the examination of judicial decisions. In a democratic society, citizens should have the right to question and scrutinize the decisions made by any arm of government, including the judiciary. Such critical analysis helps ensure transparency and accountability in the administration of justice.

Additionally, the reported relationship between Chief Justice Malaba and President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s sister, where he is currently staying at her lodge, raises concerns about potential conflicts of interest and further undermines public confidence in the judiciary’s independence. Even if this relationship has no direct influence on judicial decisions, the appearance of impropriety can be damaging.

The Chief Justice’s call for judges to deliver judgments within six months, though aiming for efficiency, must be balanced with the need for thorough and thoughtful deliberation. Rushed decisions can lead to potential errors and undermine the pursuit of justice.

Furthermore, the implementation of the Integrated Electronic Case Management System (IECMS) is a step towards improving efficiency in the judiciary. However, it is essential to ensure that the system does not compromise the confidentiality of sensitive case information or favor any particular group within the legal system.

In conclusion, Chief Justice Luke Malaba’s statement regarding criticism of judicial decisions raises significant concerns about democracy, transparency, and the rule of law in Zimbabwe. It is imperative for citizens, legal professionals, and civil society to closely monitor the actions of the judiciary and hold them accountable for their decisions. Only through an independent, transparent, and accountable judiciary can Zimbabwe uphold the principles of democracy and the rule of law.