Judges’ appointments: Mugabe did not consult Tsvangirai

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HARARE – Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was not consulted when President Robert Mugabe “unilaterally”
appointed six new judges on Monday.

Jameson Timba, minister of State in the Prime Minister’s office told the Daily News yesterday that Mugabe, who shares executive authority with Tsvangirai, breached the global political agreement (GPA) by making the unilateral appointments.

“To the best of my knowledge the prime minister was never consulted as is required by law in the appointment to the bench of judges who were sworn-in on July 15,” Timba said.

“It is unheard of the world over that a lame duck GPA president makes key appointments to key national institutions two weeks before the end of the lifespan of government.”

Asked if the PM believed the new judges were equal to the challenge, Timba said: “I am not qualified to comment on the competency of the appointments however, one is left with a sour taste in the mouth as to the impact and intention of such an 11th- hour appointment.”

On Monday, Mugabe appointed Loice Matanda-Moyo, Erica Ndewere, Nokuthula Moyo, Owen Tagu, Emmy Tsanga, and Esther Muremba at a brief ceremony held at State House.

Justice Antonia Guvava was elevated from the High Court to the Supreme Court.

Justice and Legal Affairs minister Patrick Chinamasa said the elevation of the judges was to fulfill constitutional requirements.

“We elevated judges to the Supreme Court to make up the Constitutional Court,” Chinamasa said. “That created a gap in the High Court that made it necessary to fill through the appointment of the six judges we have sworn in today.

“The issue was complicated by the fact that currently we have the Electoral Court that had to receive complaints and disputes from the electoral process. That means a lot of judges are busy leaving the normal work of the High Court unattended.”

Rashweat Mukundu, a media expert, said while it is the prerogative of the president to appoint judges as per the advice of the Judicial Service Commission, the recent appointments were somewhat unique as they came ahead of elections and at a time that neither Cabinet nor Parliament were functioning.

“One cannot rule a motive to stuffing the judiciary with like-minded individuals who will play a role in the case of disputes, more so those related to elections,” Mukundu said.

“One would question the urgency of the appointments at a time president Mugabe and his political opponents are on the ground campaigning.”

He said despite the fact that normal State business must continue even at the heat of election time, this was one task Mugabe could afford to wait-out unless there was a link to a political strategy of survival.

Tabani Moyo, a civil rights activist campaigner, said any incumbent would want to present a picture of business as usual to the public, the region and international community.

“Mugabe wants to present a “fit” to govern and “business as usual”

approach as if to say he is not bothered by the impending election hence the showcase of him doubling up his State duties and political party campaigns with “ease”,” said Moyo.

“The long and short of it all is that he wants to show the world that the country is not facing a vacuum as Cabinet members are now focusing on elections.”

Precious Shumba,  another civil rights activist, said Mugabe is readying himself to defend himself against litigation that might arise from a disputed electoral outcome.

“There is strong thinking in Zanu PF that they own Zimbabwe and can do whatever they think is ideal,” Shumba said. “Whatever his motives, they are not genuine.

“In my view, he should have waited until a new government is in place. Even as the nation gears for an election to choose a new president, new senate, new parliament, and new governance structures, Zanu PF and the president do not see themselves out of that government, and are simply sending a message to other political actors and interest groups that they are going nowhere, whatever the political outcome.”

Phillip Pasirayi, director of Centre for Community Development of Zimbabwe, said the appointments were illegal because Mugabe did not consult with PM Tsvangirai as is required by law.

“The appointment of the new judges of the High and Supreme Courts is in violation of the provisions of the Global Political Agreement which state clearly the need for the president to consult and agree with the premier before making these key appointments,” Pasirayi said.

“I reiterate that Zanu PF is still living in the past where we have seen appointments made on partisan grounds for political expediency without any regard to merit except extending or entrenching the Zanu PF hegemony and system of patronage.”

Outspoken playwright Cont Mhlanga said Mugabe and his team are now planning for the post-election era.

“To understand his motive, you have to stop thinking of it as two weeks before the election action,” Mhlanga said.

“He is living and thinking and acting post-election win or lose. That is why this man remains my hero, good or bad. He leads and they follow, right or wrong.

“The opposition actors are deep in their campaign wagons talking of him as losing the election while he is setting up ground for the post-election action.”

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