Chief Justice Luke Malaba is under fire after a High Court judge who recently resigned to evade a serious corruption investigation – Webster Chinamora – has been unlawfullly allowed back to write several outstanding judgements without being first cleared of charges of corruption.
Legal experts told a local online this is a legally dubious arrangement which may well be illegal and may open the floodgates for more corruption as Chinamora can longer be reined in through a constitutional mechanism of a tribunal again since he has already escaped one.
Chinamora resigned on 17 November after President Emmerson Mnangagwa had appointed a tribunal to investigate his suitability to continue to hold office
following a litany of corruption allegations against him.
As exclusively reported by a local online, there was a high-level bid by the executive to protect Chinamora from a tribunal investigation after the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) recommended way back in March that he should be probed together with a High Court colleague Justice Martin Makonese.
Mnangagwa was quick to appoint a tribunal to probe Makonese in April, but took almost 10 months to do the same for Chinamora.
This only happened due to sustained pressure from the media and legal fraternity. Prominent lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa write to Mnangagwa over the issue, accusing him of unconstitutional conduct.
Supreme Court Justice Francis Bere and High Court judges Erica Ndewere, Thompson Mabhikwa and Edith Mushore were fired from the bench over gross misconduct.
Lawyers say after Chinamora abruptly resigned to escape investigation by the Justice Ahmed Ebrahim Tribunal, he should no longer be allowed back because he was not cleared of charges against him and will now come back with carte blache in his practice.
Even though judges who resign are allowed by practice to finish their outstanding judgements, Chinamora’s case is different as he was automatically suspended by operation of law after Mnangagwa appointed a tribunal to investigate him.
So he must not be given yet another chance on the bench after he resigned following the appointment of a tribunal – which meant subsequent loss of legal authority to preside over court cases – as that would be tantamount to giving him a new opportunity to perpetuate corruption, especially without the check and balance of a constitutional disciplinary recourse.