Eyebrows raised over appointment of new High Court judges

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By Staff Reporter

THE appointment of 11 new judges of the High Court this week has been met with contempt, with observers claiming that some new appointees were undeserving.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa Wednesday appointed 10 High Court judges and one judge of the Administrative Court.

The successful candidates are, Faith Mushure and Ngoni Nduna who are former magistrates and lawyers Regis Demure, Philipa Phillips, Gibson Mandaza, Joel Mambara, Naison Chivhayo, Vivian Ndlovu, Sijabuliso Siziba and Mpokiseng Dube.

Maxwell Kaitano was appointed to the sole Administrative Court judge’s post.

Pointedly, Nduna borrowed a bank loan which he refused or neglected to repay while some have never argued or represented a client in a court of law.

Legal practitioners who spoke to allege the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) failed in its bid to maintain the integrity of the bench as some of the new appointees had a tainted history.

Most lawyers refused to speak on record stating that it would compromise their working relationship with the new crop given that they will be appearing before them.

 “I don’t think we are going in the right direction as much as there is democracy. People that were appointed were looking for a job which is not right when you are looking for candidates for this honourable position.

“Head hunting is better because you will be looking for the best instead of opening the opportunity to everyone,” said a Harare lawyer.

“If you are worth that honour you must not be buoyed through that process of looking for a job.

 “My major concern is that this kind of selection is not producing the intended result because people (the commission) are overzealous; they think they will get the best from an interview,” said a top lawyer who spoke on anonymity.

Another legal professional said some judges are little known and have no footprints in their industry warranting them a seat on the coveted bench.

“We were shocked. Some names…we have never heard of them. I have been practicing for many years and the coincidence that you come across a name you have never heard of is a story in itself,” he said.

“We are going down the drain. The issue is whether they have capacity or not. With interviews, people can prepare and  answer questions correctly.

“Some of the people who are best judges come from the practice and to my surprise they don’t even take these advocates.

“This job is not for those who hide behind companies and organisations and only to pop up when there are interviews. Unfortunately those people who are doing it wrong are the people who are supposed to be doing the job right,” said another lawyer.

 Another lawyer said when public interviews were introduced, the whole idea was to bring transparency in how judges are appointed.

 “Considering the role these men and women play in bringing about a functional judicial system which should be dressed with integrity, public interviews play an important role of giving the public confidence of who adjudicates the affairs of the public.

“However, the recent appointments have shown that all the public interviews are just a show with the appointing authority having no intention whatsoever to appoint the best man and woman for the job.

“Some of the worst performers were appointed to the bench and one wonders what purpose did the interviews serve.

“It really goes down to the calibre of men and women who conduct the interviews and publicly grill people they have no intention of ever seeing on the bench.

“It turns the whole justice delivery system into a huge joke. Can the worst performers be trusted to execute a function independently when they know very well that they are not fit for purpose.

“The judiciary is an important arm of government that is supposed to play an oversight role, but it is now seemingly being compromised by reproachable appointments,” said another lawyer.

The new judges are set to be sworn in on Tuesday.