TOP human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa has called for investigation and suspension of Judicial Service Commission (JSC) secretary Walter Chikwana over his alleged meeting with one of the judges assigned to hear Chief Justice Luke Malaba’s contempt of court case.
In a letter to JSC dated June 4, 2021, Mtetwa alleged that Chikwana was an interested party in the matter.
This was after Justice Webster Chinamhora last Thursday recused himself from the matter saying he had met with Chikwana prior to the court sitting.
The proceedings had to continue with only two judges, Justices Amy Tsanga and Sylvia Chirawu-Mugomba who reserved judgment to this week.
Critics said the meeting between Chikwana and Justice Chinamhora could have been to influence judgment on the matter.
In her letter, addressed to acting Chief Justice Elizabeth Gwaunza and copied to the Law Society of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, Attorney-General’s Office, Judge President’s Office among others, Mtetwa, a senior partner with Mtetwa and Nyambirai Legal Practitioners, said there was need to investigate Chikwana’s conduct in the matter.
“I write to you as a concerned lawyer who runs a largely litigation practice. On June 3, 2021, it transpired that Mr Chikwana had met one of the judges who were seized with a matter in which Mr Chikwana had an interest as he had deposed to an affidavit in the proceedings with which the judge was seized,” Mtetwa wrote.
“The judge admitted that he had indeed met with Mr Chikwana and recused himself from the case. Apart from this incident, it also appears that Mr Chikwana has, in various other litigation deposed to affidavits purportedly on behalf of JSC when in fact the commission would not have authorised him to do so.
“If proved to be correct, these would be grave and serious allegations against the administrative head of the JSC and this would severely dent the integrity of the commission as an institution designed to promote the ‘efficient, effective and transparent administration of justice in Zimbabwe’ by an independent and accountable Judiciary.
“Given these grave allegations against Mr Chikwana and given the commissioners’ constitutional obligations and the commission’s stated objectives of adhering to best practice to promote the maintenance of a transparent, accountable and independent Judiciary as stated in the commission’s website, I request that these allegations against Mr Chikwana be independently investigated and that such investigations be done while he is on leave of absence as provided for in the relevant JSC disciplinary legislation,” Mtetwa said.
She said it would be in the best interests of not only the commission, but the entire justice delivery system for JSC to deal with the matter.
“I also advise that these views are shared by many legal practitioners that I have spoken to,” Mtetwa said.
The JSC is yet to respond to Mtetwa’s letter.
Malaba is embroiled in a legal fight to keep his job after the High Court ruled that his term of office expired last month when he turned 70. Attempts by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to extend his term were adjudged a legal nullity.
In another development, Mtetwa yesterday accused High Court judge Justice Chinembiri Bhunu of abusing the law to pursue political interests when he jailed MDC Alliance activists Last Maengahama and Tungamirai Madzokere for eight years over the 2011 murder of a policeman.
Mtetwa told the media that Justice Bhunu politicised the murder case to the point of obsession and failed to apply his mind properly in coming up with the guilty verdict on Maengahama and Madzokere, which was overturned last week by the Supreme Court eight years later.
Maengahama and Madzokere were jailed for the 2011 murder of police Inspector Petros Mutedza during a gathering dispersal at Glen View 3 shopping centre in Harare. They were released last Friday after Supreme Court judges Justices Rita Makarau, Elizabeth Gwaunza and Susan Mavangira quashed their conviction and sentence.
“The judge was so fixated and characterised this case as a case of MDC-T members going out to kill a policeman without looking at the available evidence… this was why there was no investigations to find out who committed the crime. The concentration was on locking up people who were associated with the MDC,” Mtetwa said.
“Unfortunately, this is what we have seen for a long time where the law has been weaponised against opposition members, and where you see persons from the ruling party doing the same things — nothing happens to them,” she said.
Flanked by Maengahama and Madzokere, Mtetwa vowed to sue government over her clients’ wrongful incarceration.