Judicial independence non-negotiable

Judicial independence non-negotiable
Published: 18 December 2018 (276 Views)
Judicial independence, which is critical for the sustenance of democracy, is under assault if developments at the on-going trial of MDC national chairperson Tendai Biti are anything to go by.

Last week on Wednesday, an account was given of court proceedings in which Biti's lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, claimed chief prosecutor Michael Reza sent a damning message, denigrating Harare magistrate Gloria Takundwa, who is presiding over the case.

Mtetwa alleged Reza bizarrely sent the demeaning message to Advocate Thabani Mpofu in the mistaken belief that he was communicating with another Thabani Mpofu, who leads the Special Prosecuting Unit in the Office of the President. If Reza indeed sent the offending message, then Zimbabweans have every reason to fear for the health of both our Judiciary and democracy.

The chief prosecutor's message to Mpofu, who leads the Special Prosecuting Unit in the President's Office, is not only contemptuous but also compromises the independence of the Judiciary as it suggests, rather chillingly, that our judges and magistrates should not make rulings without the authority of Chief Justice Luke Malaba.

Ideally, our judges and magistrates should not routinely confer with the Chief Justice before making rulings because such a practice practically weakens the core of the justice system. Such a scenario is also very unhealthy because it effectively makes our judges and magistrates figure heads.

The way the chief prosecutor refers to the head of the Special Prosecuting Unit in the President's Office as “comrade” should also be a source of worry. “Comrade” in this country, is synonymous with the ruling Zanu PF.

Only cadres of the ruling party are addressed as such. It goes without saying that even state media won't address someone with no links to the ruling party as comrade.

It is therefore fair to suggest that by addressing the head of the Special Prosecuting Unit in the President's Office as “comrade,” Reza was also unwittingly confessing some links to the ruling party.

Given the seriousness of the allegations, and because of their implications on the independence of the Judiciary or lack of, we hope the Chief Justice, whose name was dragged into the offending message by Reza, will move in decisively in defence of judicial independence.

The chief prosecutor and the head of the Special Prosecuting Unit in the President's Office must be made to explain themselves. Zimbabwe deserves better. We surely can't afford to rely on prosecuting officials with such a perverted view of justice.



- dailynews

Tags: Reza, Mpofu, Judiciary,
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