COURT WATCH 4 2016
[18th October 2016]
Judicial Service Commission Invites Public to Nominate Candidates
for Appointment as Next Chief Justice
Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku will retire from the bench and the Chief Justiceship at the end of February, when he will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 years. Judicial Service Commission [JSC] formally announced the coming vacancy and published press notices inviting the public to nominate suitably qualified candidates for appointment as Zimbabwe’s next Chief Justice.
Deadline for nominations – close of business Monday 31st October
How to make a nomination
The official nomination form must be used
This form can be obtained from the office of the Secretary, Judicial Service Commission, Old Supreme Court Building, cnr Kwame Nkrumah Avenue/Third Street, Harare; or the office of any Provincial Magistrate in charge of a province.
Alternatively, it can be downloaded from the website of the Judicial Service Commission www.jsc.org.zw, and is also available on the Veritas website using this link. Please note that the nomination form for the post of Chief Justice is a new form. The form previously provided for nominating Supreme Court and High Court judges should not be used.
Candidate’s CV and acceptance of nomination
The candidate’s curriculum vitae must be attached to the completed nomination form. And the candidate must sign the form to indicate acceptance of the nomination.
Where to submit completed form
Completed nomination forms, with the candidate's CV attached, must be submitted to—
· The office of the Secretary, Judicial Service Commission, Old Supreme Court Building, cnr Kwame Nkrumah Avenue/Third Street, Harare; or
· the office of any Provincial Magistrate in charge of a province.
This procedure is in accordance with section 180 of the Constitution, and applies to all judicial appointments. This section obliges the Judicial Service Commission whenever a judicial appointment is necessary, to advertise the vacant position and to “invite the President and the public to make nominations.” So the President will have also have had or be receiving an invitation to nominate a candidate or candidates for the soon-to-be-vacant post of Chief Justice.
Qualifications Required for Appointment as Chief Justice of Zimbabwe
The formal qualifications are the same as those for the post of Supreme Court or Constitutional Court judge. To be appointed a candidate must —
· be at least 40 years old, and
· be a Zimbabwean citizen, and
· EITHER have been judge of a court of unlimited civil or criminal jurisdiction in Zimbabwe or a country in which English is an officially recognised language and the common law is Roman-Dutch [e.g. South Africa] or English [e.g. Zambia] OR be currently and have been for at least 10 years, whether continuously or not, qualified to practise as a legal practitioner in Zimbabwe or any one of the other countries just mentioned and be currently so qualified to practise.
Any appointee must, in addition to having the formal qualifications, also be “a fit and proper person to hold office as a judge”, in this case a fit and proper person to hold office as Chief Justice. It is under this head that competence, integrity and independence and leadership ability fall, all of them necessary qualities in a Chief Justice.
As is apparent from the above statement of the qualifications—
1. The next Chief Justice does not have to be one of the current Supreme Court judges. She or he could come from the High Court bench or even from the legal profession, as long as the qualifications are satisfied. Chief Justice Chidyausiku went from Judge-President of the High Court to Chief Justice.
2. A person with no previous judicial experience could be appointed, but she or he would have to have at least 10 years’ standing as a qualified legal practitioner. Such an appointment would be unprecedented, at least in this country.
The Appointment Procedure
The procedure following the expiry of the period for receipt of nominations is laid down in section 180(2) of the Constitution. The JSC must—
· conduct public interviews of prospective candidates, and
· prepare a list of three qualified candidates for each position, and
· submit the list of three names to the President.
The President then makes the appointment from the list, unless he considers that none of the persons on the list is “suitable for appointment”. If he considers that not one is suitable, he must communicate that to the JSC and require it to submit a further list of qualified persons, from which he must then make his appointments.
Comment: The President cannot appoint someone whose name has not been submitted by the Commission. This is very different from the position under the former Constitution, under which the President had to consult the Commission before making judicial appointments, but was free, if he wished, to reject its advice and appoint someone it had not recommended.
Chief Justice Chidyausiku
The Chief Justice was born in February 1947. In 1972 he graduated from the University of Zimbabwe and went into private legal practice as an advocate. From a few years he was an MP in the Rhodesian Parliament, representing theHarare African Roll constituency. He was returned as a ZANU MP in the 1980 election and served briefly as Deputy Minister of Local Government and Deputy Minister of Justice before being appointed Attorney-General in 1982. In 1987 he was appointed a High Court judge and in due course became Judge-President of the High Court. In March 2001 he was appointed Acting Chief Justice and became substantive Chief Justice a few months later, making him the longest-serving Chief Justice of Zimbabwe.
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