Activist petitions JSC over judge

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A HUMAN rights activist has written to the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) secretary Walter Chikwana appealing for action to be taken against High Court judge Thompson Mabhikwa, who upon appointment in 2017 reportedly failed to disclose that a judgment was obtained against him for failing to pay US$23 306 in rentals to a pension fund.

In the letter dated February 28, 2020, the activist Tichaona Chikoto said the failure by Mabhikwa to disclose such crucial information showed that he had been appointed under “concerning circumstances”.

“The circumstances of the matter are the following: On the 26th of October 2015 judge Mabhikwa, who was then a legal practitioner in private practice, had a judgment taken against him. The judgment required him to pay a sum of money being arrear rentals accrued from his practice.

“On the 2nd of June 2016, a writ of execution was taken and is witnessed by the Honourable (the late) Chief Justice (Godfrey) Chidyausiku. What this means is that by that date, Mabhikwa had not satisfied the judgment of the court,” Chikoto said.

He said despite the adverse judgment against him, which he failed to disclose, Mabhikwa went on to be appointed a High Court judge in December 2017.

“During the interviews conducted and which preceded his appointment, he seems to not have disclosed the fact that he had a judgment taken against him. Obviously, he did not explain whether he had satisfied the terms of that judgment.

“I understand it is unethical conduct for a legal practitioner to be in arrears with their landlord particularly if the arrears arise from their practice. The conduct of … Mabhikwa was in view of his position a breach of his ethical duties,” he said.

Chikoto added that the fact that Mabhikwa failed to pay rentals amounting to US$23 306, 73, resulting in the issuance of a writ of execution, means that he committed an act of insolvency, which made him unsuitable to remain on the register of legal practitioners.

“The suppression by … Mabhikwa, when he applied for a job as a judge, of the fact that an order had been taken against him, arguably constitutes fraud on his part. This is an issue which in my view ought to have been brought to the fore and which both the Judicial Services Commission and the president ought to have considered. I do not believe that the chief justice with his keen attention to values and detail would have ignored this issue had it been disclosed.

“The failure by …Mabhikwa to meet the terms of a court order puts into question his moral authority to issue orders as a High Court judge. Why must the litigants that appear before him obey the orders that he issues?” he queried.

Chikoto said the judge’s issue must be looked into, including his suitability to remain in office.
JSC spokesperson Brian Nkiwane yesterday confirmed receiving the letter.

“The letter was received by the JSC and is receiving due attention,” Nkiwane tersely said.

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