By Mandipa Masenyama
JUSTICE minister, Ziyambi Ziyambi has hit back at Harare lawyer, Joshua John Chirambwe’s application that he mounted with the High Court last month challenging the legality of the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) to regulate the legal profession.
Chirambwe, is seeking declaratory relief that sections 58, 64, and 65(1) to (5) of the Legal Practitioners Act are invalid and in violation of the Constitution.
He filed the lawsuit after the government issued threats to reform the LSZ which has been critical of rights abuses under President Emmerson Mnangagwa leadership.
“I wish to point out from the outset that my portfolio in the Cabinet of the government of Zimbabwe is that of Minister of Justice,” said Ziyambi.
“For purposes of the causes of action raised by the applicant in this application what is relevant in my respectful view is that I have been assigned by the President of Zimbabwe with the administration of the provisions of the Legal Practitioners Act Chapter 27:07 some of whose provisions applicant (Chirambwe) puts in issue in the above application.
“On the other hand, my opposition to the consequential relief which applicant seeks in his para. 5 as set out in my paragraph 6.6 above is based on my views that I have no constitutional obligation to introduce a Bill such as is sought by the applicant and consequently this honourable court cannot, therefore, grant the order sought in circumstances where no duty exists or is imposed on me.
“As a member of the cabinet of Zimbabwe, it is the responsibility of such cabinet to initiate and prepare if it so wishes a bill of the nature sought by the applicant. In the event that Cabinet does initiate and prepare such a Bill, it is Cabinet which will resolve that, I present the same in Parliament as part of the normal duties of my portfolio in cabinet and in terms of the assignment of the administration of the Act in question upon me by the president,” said the minister, adding that the application should be dismissed with costs.
The Legal Practitioners Act requires one to be first a member of the LSZ before they are registered by a judge of the High Court and admitted as a lawyer.
Chirambwe argues that this is unfair because the Constitution gives everyone the right to associate with organisations or groups of choice.
He further argues he does not want to be affiliated to the LSZ, which he accuses of pursuing opposition politics.
Chirambwe says the issuing of practicing certificates by the LSZ weakens one’s independence in the profession.
Chirambwe cited the LSZ, Ziyambi, and Attorney-General Prince Machaya as respondents.
Ziyambi recently threatened amendments to the Legal Practitioners Act, which would include giving the Justice Minister power to appoint four counsels to the LSZ, up from the present two.
The Justice Minister would also have the power to approve or disapprove external funding raised by the LSZ “in the national interest.”
Ziyambi made the threats after the LSZ criticised constitutional amendments giving more power to the president to appoint the attorney-general and judges without public interviews.