By Andrew Kunambura
JUDICIAL independence and impartiality in dispensing justice, not over-emphasis on the use of information communication technology, will provide useful tools to ensure effective administration of justice and safeguarding of the rule of law, a human rights lobby group has said.
Reacting to Chief Justice Luke Malaba’s State Of the Judiciary Address (SOJA) delivered on Monday to mark the opening of the 2022 legal year, Human Rights NGO Forum executive director Musa Kika said lack of judicial independence and absence of impartiality were the elephant in the room for the country’s judicial system.
Kika said Malaba’s speech emphasised on the new e-filing system and ignored real issues affecting the country’s justice delivery system.
He said ICT alone cannot be used as the vanguard for the promotion of the rule of law in the country.
“Thus, while the development of a culture of efficiency in the administration of justice is crucial, the enhancement, growth or enhancement, efficacy, and long-term survival of the rule of law in a constitutional democracy cannot be sustained by digitisation alone,” Kika said.
“The importance of fostering public confidence in the sanctity and independence of the judiciary is what is more important.
“The efficiency of the justice delivery system should also be guaranteed to safeguard the rights of a citizen through appointment and independence of the Judiciary.
“Of the three branches of government, it is the Judiciary that carries the greatest burden to ensure that rule of law prevails.
‘”The rule of law is the hallmark of any civilized and democratic society.”
In his speech, Malaba touted the Integrated Electronic Case Management System (IECMS) as the appropriate vehicle to enhance the access to the justice system as well as the enhancement of efficiency and the rule of law.
Kika last year took the government and the Judicial Services Commission to court following the move by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to extend Malaba’s term of office by five more years past his retirement age.
He argued that Malaba should not be a beneficiary of the constitutional amendments that had controversially been made to extend judges’ term of office, a view upheld by the High Court.
Malaba, however, won the case after a Zanu PF functionary challenged the High Court ruling in favour of Kika at the Constitutional Court in a case that was presided over by judges cited in the matter.
Kika snubbed the Constitutional Court hearing after the judges recused themselves in the case in which Max Mupungu was seeking to overturn the High Court ruling.
During Malaba’s address, Zimbabweans took to social media where they accused him of clinging on to power using unorthodox means.
Critics accused Zimbabwe’s most senior judge of lacking integrity after the High Court ruled against his continued stay in office.
Some social media followers accused Malaba of sending the country’s Judiciary ino shambles by clinging on to power.