PRESIDENT Mnangagwa has never interfered with the operations of the Judiciary as it is an independent arm of the State whose decisions are not influenced by any political interests, Chief Justice Luke Malaba has said.
In an exclusive interview with The Chronicle, CJ Malaba said the Judiciary, which is the third arm of the State after the Executive and the Legislature, operates within the confines of the country’s Constitution from which it derives its independence.
“The Judiciary is an institution of the people by virtue of it having been created by the very same people. The Judiciary doesn’t create itself. With us, we are very clear and I can say it once and for all that there is no one who has ever interfered with the judiciary, including the President himself and if people don’t believe that then hard luck. It is in the interest of everyone that the judiciary has independence and that includes members of the public, the Executive, Legislature and even NGOs. It is also in the interest of even those that criticise the Judiciary to ensure its independence. You don’t criticise the judiciary to the extent of eroding its independence,” he said.
CJ Malaba’s remarks come hot on the heels of unsubstantiated claims by some members of society, including the opposition, alleging that some court decisions not ruled in their favour, were a directive from the Government.
Notably, the recent conviction of Chief Felix Nhlanhlayamangwe Ndiweni who was slapped with an effective 18 months in jail for ordering his subjects to destroy a villager’s property in Ntabazinduna, has drawn the ire of opposition activists with some taking to social media to criticise the Judiciary and alleging a political hand in the magistrate’s ruling.
“It is the people who created the independence of the Judiciary and it is equally important for people to understand that before criticising the judiciary, they must first reflect deeply on what it means to have a judiciary, and what it means to criticise it to the extent of discouraging its independence. Independence is not just supporting it, you can actually destroy the independence of the judiciary by constantly attacking it. There is no judiciary which has an interest in any other thing except delivering justice,” said CJ Malaba.
The Chief Justice said in the event that there is some form of evidence of lack of independence exhibited by a judicial officer, they would not hesitate to take appropriate measures.
“As Judiciary, we can’t ensure that what we say is accepted by everyone because that is not our job as judiciary.
“However, as the Judiciary, we can only state what we exist for, and if anyone has a case of a judicial officer who has exhibited lack of independence and lack of independence is not just a term in abstract, but a constitutionally reviewable substantive term hence you don’t criticise a judiciary in the air and hope to succeed. You will never succeed because we don’t care,” he said.
“What we care about is the substantive aspect and if you can show us that a particular judicial officer has acted against the constitutional obligation to be independent then definitively we will take action even if it’s a chief justice who has to be shown that he acted outside the law because that is the only criteria by which we measure ourselves in the judiciary.”
CJ Malaba said although the Judiciary exists in relation to other organs of the State, it remains an independent arm with its own interest.
“Judiciary does not exist in a vacuum, but it is critical for the other organs of the State to be able to also exist without interfering with the judiciary. An Executive that has an interest in interfering with the judiciary doesn’t understand its position because its very inherent interest is the survival of the independence of the judiciary.
“You can’t have an Executive that is worth its salt interfering with the Judiciary,” he said.