Magistrate grilled for using JSC vehicle without permission as public interviews for aspiring High Court judges commence

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By Staff Reporter

Beitbridge Regional magistrate, Innocent Bepura who is vying for a High Court judge post has pledged to correct his wrongs after it was exposed that he once used the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) vehicle without authority.

This came to light after he was involved in a traffic accident.

The misconduct was unearthed during the ongoing public interviews for aspiring High Court and Administrative Court judges.

Bepura was grilled over his conduct by panelists who include Chief Justice Luke Malaba, Judge President Mary Zimba-Dube and Commissioner Katsande.

The magistrate explained himself, stating that the incident was not wilful.

“That type of conduct is uncalled for, for a judicial officer,” he admitted.

“There was a change…there was a policy which directed that if a member of the judiciary is involved in an accident should not drive without getting clearance from the secretary.

“I’m sorry I did not do that…I am a law-abiding citizen and that can easily be remedied by compliance,” he said.

One of the interviewers, commissioner Katsande, also asked him about the incident and if he was unaware of the guidelines when he did so.

Bepura said this was the only incident in which he erred as a judicial officer.

“I am a person who is always abreast with the requirements of the law. It’s an unfortunate incident that entangled me,” he said.

Malaba asked him what would have happened if he had not been involved in an accident.

He said he was going “to Gwanda for other issues.”

“I had been involved in an accident so I was going to Gwanda to attend a hearing on that vehicle…,” he tried to explain.

Bepura said he had not received any written instruction not to drive the vehicle.

He said he only became aware that he was wrong after he was referred to a new policy that had been made.

Bepura has worked as a magistrate in Mutare, Mutasa, Plumtree and Beitbridge before.

He said he has been a magistrate for 14 uninterrupted years.

One of the commissioners, N Moyo asked him why he thought he was ready for a bigger post considering he had only worked in small cities.

He responded, “Indeed I have worked on the stations. I also submit that I’m ripe and ready to proceed to the High Court.

“The applicability of the law in Gwanda and Chisumbanje is the same,” he responded infuriating the commissioner who ordered him to “stop there.”

On the follow-up question, Bepura said they also handle serious cases in Beitbridge.

“You can’t say cases in Plumtree are less serious than those in Beitbridge…,” he said before he was cut short by the same interviewer who seemed annoyed by his responses.

The judge president asked him what he thinks is the bigger challenge of being a judge.

Bepura said it is the workload but he will deliver because he is a “person, who when is doing his work is not governed by the clock but the work before him”.

According to Bepura, the most difficult case was when he sentenced a juvenile who was convicted of rape to a custodial sentence following a change of sentencing guidelines.

“It was difficult …but I found there was no way I could divert from the law,” he said.

Another aspiring judge, Muneinazvo Chitakunye was at pains to answer what inherent jurisdiction means.

Chitakunye is a registered legal practitioner but has not worked as a lawyer or a magistrate before.

He was involved in commercial law and was a company secretary for Surface Wilmar and Olivine.

Chitakunye said this does not disqualify him and he feels he should be given an opportunity.

“It will just be a question of polishing up and going for in-house training.

“Being in commerce has given me necessary exposure and will be bringing necessary diversity to the bench.

“We (lawyers in commerce) should also be given opportunities, why not?

“There is always that perception that one should be a legal practitioner or a judicial officer to become a judge which is not correct,” he said.

Another interviewed candidate was Evans Chivayo Naison who served as a prosecutor and police officer before.

The first batch of candidates was interviewed on Monday and the second one on Tuesday while those vying for the administrative court post will be interviewed on Wednesday.