By Matabeleland North Correspondent
CHIEF Justice Luke Malaba has admitted that judges sometimes make wrong judgments in the course of their duties but need not be criticised for genuine errors.
In what appeared to be a public apology to lawyers over “unfavourable” judgments – though without giving examples – passed by the bench, CJ Malaba appealed to lawyers to be lenient in criticising judges.
He was speaking at the recent 20th Sadc Lawyers Association conference held in the resort town of Victoria Falls.
“I share with you all the emotions that have been brought here. We dream the same, we have a common goal. We tend to focus on other institutions and forget about ourselves.
“Are we independent, and how far are we independent? These are the questions we must ask ourselves,” the Chief Justice said.
He added: “Don’t say as I sat there and listened to you and made a wrong judgment, I didn’t comply with the rule of law. That’s not the idea. If I made a wrong a judgment, I made a wrong judgment. It doesn’t mean that I disobeyed the rule of law. It simply means that maybe I misinterpreted the law and are you going to blame me and say this is a horrible judge or you are going to assist me next time. Let’s be constructively critical.”
Lawyers who spoke before Malaba had raised concern around the absence of the rule of law as well as the independence of the judiciary which they argued had been compromised in Zimbabwe.
CJ Malaba said rule of law goes hand in hand with presence of strong institutions.
“We cannot talk of strong institutions when there is no rule of law. A weak and compromised judiciary is unlikely to have rule of law. You can sit there and argue and I can listen to you, but where result is pre-determined, there is no rule of law and it counts to nothing,” said CJ Malaba.
The country’s top most judge came under attack last year following his ruling in a case in which opposition leader Nelson Chamisa challenged the result of the July 2018 election.
The Constitutional Court which CJ Malaba heads ruled that Chamisa had failed to provide evidence of rigging to back his claims.
During his recent address, CJ Malaba also challenged the legal fraternity to adhere to best professional standards.
Constitutional lawyer professor Lovemore Madhuku said every citizen has a role to play in ensuring existence of rule of law.
Namibian lawyer Bryan Eisab said non-existence of rule of law should partly be blamed on the Constitution which mostly pretends to give power to the people.