Chief justice says judges intimidated in political cases

Chief Justice Luke Malaba
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HARARE – Chief Justice Luke Malaba said misinformation and intimidation of judicial officers for decisions made during the course of their work was rife in 2023.

Opening the 2024 legal year in Harare on Monday, Malaba said seven judges had fallen victim to misinformation and attempted intimidation particularly on cases of political interest.

“During the course of the elections period, disparaging and damaging remarks were made against the judiciary in general and some judges of the Supreme Court and the High Court. The unwarranted aspersions stemmed from decisions which the courts had made,” he said.

“Even more concerning was the fact that the disparaging remarks were made by some members of the legal profession who are expected to have known better.”

He said some litigants, after losing cases in court, “went on a tirade, casting aspersions on the integrity of the courts and the judges.”

He added: “They raised unfounded allegations of corruption, threatened, and attempted to intimidate judicial officers who would have made decisions against them. At the last count, seven judges had fallen victim to the vile misinformation and intimidation.”

Malaba said in instances involving lawyers, the JSC engaged the Law Society of Zimbabwe and the engagement resulted in the matters being resolved amicably.

“Constitutionalism discourages vexatious and unrelenting litigation by litigants whose conduct is directed at undermining public confidence in the independence and integrity of not only the judiciary but the entire administration of the justice system,” Malaba said.

“The respect for the rule of law and for the independence of the courts demanded by constitutionalism requires that litigants should comply with court orders and legitimately use the remedies put in place by the law to challenge the unfavourable decisions of the courts.”

Malaba however encouraged judges not to shy away from making decisions on account of baseless complaints and allegations raised against them by vexatious litigants.

“It cannot be the norm that justice can only be said to have been done when the disposition is inclined to a particular outcome favoured by a litigant in question. It will be an affront to the doctrine of constitutionalism and the essence of the rule of law if Judges were to allow themselves to be intimidated by errant litigants who lose cases in court,” he said.

“In pursuing the entrenchment of constitutionalism, the Judiciary thus notes that vexatious litigation, unrestrained denigration, threats and spurious complaints against judicial officers have no place in a country controlled by a constitutional order.”

He maintained that his comments were not meant to protect the courts and judges from fair scrutiny, adverse comments and criticism of their judgments and decisions. – ZimLive