LAW SOCIETY OF ZIMBABWE STATEMENT ON THE COMMENTS MADE BY THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS AFTER THE HIGH COURT RULING ON THE CHIEF JUSTICE’S TERM OF OFFICE.
The Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) has been closely following the two cases filed at the High Court of Zimbabwe on 11 and 12 May 2021 respectively.
Following the ruling on the two cases on Saturday 15 May 2021 by High Court Honourable Justice Happias Zhou sitting with Honourable Justice Edith Mushore and Honourable Justice Jester Charewa, social media was awash with a statement attributed to the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary affairs Honourable Ziyambi Ziyambi who was cited as a party in the proceedings before the court.
The statement was further extensively quoted in the Sunday Mail of 16 May 2021 and other international media platforms.
We have carefully considered the statement and we are of the view that on the face of it, it was contemptuous of the court that dealt with this matter.
A litigant aggrieved by a court decision has a right of appeal and such displeasure must be addressed through an appeal filed at court.
A public statement attacking a court of law has the effect of ridiculing the judiciary thereby diminishing public confidence in the institution.
In this instance, it is our considered view that prima facie, the attacks in the Minister’s statement are unfair, unwarranted and not necessary especially coming from a Minister responsible for justice and who is also a legal practitioner.
The statement threatens judicial independence and undermines the principle of separation of powers which are fundamental tenets of the rule of law.
Our country’s Constitution provides unequivocally for the independence of the judiciary for impartial delivery of justice, defending and upholding the Constitution and to act freely without fear or favour.
This independence should never be compromised, but should be defended at all costs.
The LSZ reaffirms and implores the State, its institutions and every agency of the Government to respect the provisions of Section 164 of the Constitution which provides as follows;
(1) The courts are independent and are subject only to this Constitution and the law, which they must apply impartially, expeditiously and without fear, favour or prejudice.
(2) The independence, impartiality and effectiveness of the courts are central to the rule of law and democratic governance, and therefore— (a) neither the State nor any institution or agency of the government at any level, and no other person, may interfere with the functioning of the courts;
(b) ) the State, through legislative and other measures, must assist and protect the courts to ensure their independence, impartiality, dignity, accessibility and effectiveness and to ensure that they comply with the principles set out in section 165.
(3) An order or decision of a court binds the State and all persons and governmental institutions and agencies to which it applies, and must be obeyed by them.
(4) The Law Society has accordingly formally asked the Minister to avail the information which was curiously withheld by his counsel and which he has also withheld in his statement. The Law Society implores the state and every agency of the Government to respect the Constitution and in particular to the provisions referred to above.