By Leopold Munhende
NATIONAL Patriotic Front (NPF) spokesperson Jealousy Mawarire says President Emmerson Mnangagwa was sponsoring a constitutional amendment Bill aimed at granting him powers to appoint local judges so as to maintain the crop of judges he has “captured”.
Mawarire was co-panellist at a Heal Zimbabwe organised public meeting in Harare on Thursday.
The discussion was called to discuss the controversial Constitution Amendment Number 2 Bill, in which the Zanu PF led government also wants the running mate clause in the national charter removed.
If passed, the proposed law will see a sitting leader enjoy the prerogative to hire and remove judges serving within Zimbabwean courts.
Mawarire, once media linkman to late former President Robert Mugabe, sees a sinister motive behind the move.
“It is very clear why they are doing it, they have compromised the judiciary after the (2017) coup.
“They do not want the burden of starting to compromise new people so they would rather carry on with those they have compromised.
“So, the easiest way is to amend the constitution, so they remain with (Chief Justice) Luke Malaba and all the other judges who are compromised.
“Let us not allow Zanu PF to run with the agenda for amending the constitution, let us resist that.
“Let us have negotiations around what we can improve in what the MDC and Zanu PF came up with, let us involve the people of Zimbabwe to discussing what we can amend.”
The intended amendment will be the second after another which gave Mnangagwa powers to handpick a Chief Justice and Judge President of the High Court in September 2018.
Judge President George Chiweshe is the one who ruled Mugabe’s dismissal of Mnangagwa from Zanu PF was illegal, High Court Judge Charles Hungwe ruled the November 2017 coup was legal while Malaba dismissed an MDC challenge against Mnangagwa’s poll victory 2018.
The Election Resource Centre (ERC) which has maintained a close eye on the intended amendments noted the current developments will see government being in a position to override citizen rights.
“An independent judiciary lies at the heart of a democratic constitutional state, enshrined in the doctrine of separation of powers.
“Judges have to determine disputes not just between ordinary citizens but between citizens and the state itself,” reads the ERC statement on the intended changes.
“Unless the judges are truly independent and are seen to be such, the government will be able to override rights of its citizens and the result will be despotism and ultimately tyranny.”
The new changes mean the judges who initially retired at 70 years will now be able to have their contracts extended by the president on a yearly basis for a maximum of five years, provided he sees it fit that they are able to continue in that capacity.
Currently, their appointment involves public interviews and the Judicial Service Commission which then forwards names to the president.