MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa says under-fire Chief Justice Luke Malaba must voluntarily step down to preserve the integrity of Zimbabwe’s judicial system.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa controversially extended Malaba’s term of office after he reached the retirement age of 70 early this month.
Mnangagwa used the contested amendments to the constitution to extend the top judge’s term, but a panel of High Court judges ruled that the move was illegal.
Malaba returned to work last week after the government appealed against the judgement.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum filed an urgent High Court application seeking to have the chief justice jailed for contempt of court.
On Friday, the case took another twist when 17 Supreme Court and Constitutional Court judges appealed the ruling that ended Malaba’s time as chief justice.
Legal experts said the appeal by the judges meant that they cannot hear the case, a development that has the potential to plunge the country into a constitutional crisis.
“The culture of leaving is important and must be upheld in offices of public trust and senior government officials in [permanent] secretaries, ministers, parastatal bosses, the registrar general, clerk of Parliament and even the judiciary,” Chamisa said yesterday.
“People must know that it is important to serve and leave. It is important to let go.”
High Court judges Happias Zhou, Esther Charehwa and Edith Mushore ruled the extension of Malaba’s term beyond his 70-year retirement age was unconstitutional.
The trios said Malaba and the other judges could not benefit from the controversial amendments to the constitution that gave Mnangagwa power to appoint top judges.
Chamisa said there was need for public officials to respect the rule of law.
Meanwhile, confusion continues to grip government over Malaba’s status as officials took turns to acknowledge Justice Elizabeth Gwaunza as the acting chief justice during the unveiling of Mbuya Nehanda statue by Mnangagwa on Africa Day.
Harare Provincial Affairs minister Oliver Chidawu is one of the officials that referred to Gwaunza as the acting chief justice.