By Nkosana Dlamini
Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi has downplayed any fears of either government or Chief Justice Luke Malaba electing to victimise High Court judges Happias Zhou and his colleagues who in May boldly reversed the President’s controversial extension of the top jurist’s term of office by another five years.
In their ruling, Zhou, Justices Edith Mushore and Jester Charewa ruled that President Emmerson Mnangagwa violated the national Constitution by granting Malaba another full term of office beyond his retirement age of 70.
Mnangagwa had acted on a fresh constitutional amendment clause his administration had put a spirited bid to sponsor.
Following the ruling, government took a passionate interest to have Malaba keep his job with Ziyambi hastily issuing a strongly worded statement lambasting the judges for allegedly acting in the interest of enemy forces.
The ruling was widely construed as a brave attempt by Malaba’s juniors to fire their boss.
It was also viewed as an equally bold dismissal of Mnangagwa’s controversial bid to keep a “trusted” judge who confirmed his (Mnangagwa) 2018 poll victory when it came under challenge from opposition arch-rival Nelson Chamisa.
Malaba’s new term of office has however been confirmed by the Constitutional Court following an appeal to overturn the High Court ruling.
The top judge’s return to the helm of the bench means that the three judges are now at his mercy and indeed that of vindictive forces within and outside government.
Zimbabwean history is replete with judges who have been hounded out of the bench by war veterans and government through brazen disregard of due process.
Then Chief Justice Antony Gubbay and some of his white colleagues are examples of judges who were forced to abandon the bench under pressure from authorities at the turn of the century.
In an interview with Zimstar News Monday, Ziyambi took a rather discreet approach, saying the judges have nothing to fear if they knew they did nothing wrong.
“I am not aware of any judge whose security has been threatened,” said Ziyambi.
“Government did not show a passionate interest to have Malaba stay but followed the laws of the country.”
Ziyambi also defended his unguarded May salvo against the judges.
“My sentiments were motivated by the fact that an action of the President or the conduct of Parliament can only be nullified by the Constitutional Court a position confirmed by the Constitutional Court.
“I queried a strange judgment given by the court. If they discharge their duties honorably, l see no reason why they should be afraid.”
Added the Zanu PF top official, “I do not wish to comment on Gubbay neither will l comment about the many judgments that sent our nationalists to jail for demanding majority rule.”