ZIMBABWE’S High Court and Supreme Court judges have confirmed the existence of the capture of the judiciary by politicians as they hit out at “manipulative” Chief Justice Luke Malaba in a stinging letter addressed to President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
In a letter of complaint, dated October 26, 2020, the judges revealed morale was at an all-time low within the judiciary over Malaba’s alleged interference with their work.
They also accused the judiciary chief of employing an overplaying hand regarding court judgements, adding that many of them were operating in fear of being victimised instead of being objective.
“What is reported in the public domain and on social media about the capture of the judiciary is no longer fiction or perception, it is in fact reality,” the judges said in their no-holds-barred letter.
The judges accused Malaba of interfering with magistrates and their decisions through the office of the Chief Magistrate.
“At the superior courts, it is an open secret that judges no longer enjoy any respect and that administrative staff now spy on judges and report to the various Registrars who in turn make reports to the Judicial Services Commission secretariat for onward reporting to the Chief Justice,” the letter reads.
The judges said they have lost trust in their supporting staff who they described as spies and have now resorted to hiding their judgements in fear of being directed to change them.
According to the judges, they were being pushed into making “safe” judgements to protect their jobs, a claim that confirmed fears of interference and capture of the judiciary often raised mainly by the opposition and activists.
Prosecutors, the judges claimed, have become the “new judicial officers” and report to other structures outside the court processes.
“Any attempts to protect the interest of accused persons and other litigants are promptly reported to the Chief Justice’s office who thereafter directs heads of the various courts/divisions to investigate these.
“Judges are therefore now so afraid of their own jobs that they consciously and subconsciously make decisions that they consider ‘safe’, even if these do not accord with the law,” the letter further reads.
Malaba, the judges allege, is influencing judgements by ordering judges to rewrite judgements adding that no judgement is passed without his approval.
“It is an open secret that no Supreme Court judgment can be delivered without the Chief Justice’s approval,” the judges said.
“It is also an open secret and a source of much disquiet that all draft judgments in the Supreme Court are circulated amongst all the judges including those who did not hear arguments on the matter.
“Judges who did not hear arguments on a particular case can influence the result without having even read the record.”
The judges also complained of the conditions of service arguing that they were receiving “worthless” RTGS fuel coupons leaving their drivers to “burn more fuel” in search of garages accepting local coupons.
On salaries, the judges said even newly qualified lawyers now earn more than them making it impossible to properly dispense justice as they are now “constantly worrying about day to day family issues.”
Presidential spokesman George Charamba declined to comment saying: “I have nothing to say on that.”