The Judicial Service Commission has appointed 35 High Court judges and 76 magistrates in all 10 provinces to arbitrate in electoral disputes and ensure rapid trial for political violence over the next six months in terms of the country’s electoral laws.
The judges hear electoral petitions while the magistrates, who have been drawn from all the 10 provinces, will have to deal with criminal cases of politically motivated violence.
The assignment of the judicial teams means that the judges and magistrates continue with their normal work, but should a case arise which concerns the elections, the nearest or other most appropriate presiding officer adjourns the normal work and moves promptly to sorting out the election issue. The large teams mean that there should be no queuing or delays.
JSC chairperson and Chief Justice Luke Malaba made the announcement yesterday in a Statutory Instrument of an extraordinary Government Gazette.
The Chief Justice appointed the 35 judges of the Electoral Court Division of the High Court in terms of the Electoral Act after consultation with the Judicial Service Commission and the Judge President of the High Court. The judges are available to the division from June 1 to December 31.
The appointed judges are Justices: Judge President Maria Dube, Garainesu Mawadze, Happias Zhou, Joseph Mafusire, David Mangota, Maxwell Takuva, Amy Tsanga, Nokuthula Moyo, Esther Muremba, Davison Moses Foroma, Tawanda Chitapi, Nyaradzo Munangati-Manongwa, Phildah Muzofa, Isaac Muzenda, Neville Wamambo, Sylvia Chirawu-Mugomba, Benjamin Chikowero, Pisirai Kwenda, Jacob Manzunzu, Evangelista Kabasa, Christopher Dube-Banda, Siyabona Musithu, Sunsley Zisengwe, Webster Chinamora, Gladys Mhuri, Emilia Muchawa, Fatima Maxwell, Rodgers Manyangadze, Joseph Chilimbe, Cathrine Bachi-Muzawazi, Bongani Ndlovu, Samuel Deme, Munamato Mutevedzi, Never Katiyo and Lucie-Annie Mungwari.
While only two judges have to be appointed to the Electoral Court, Chief Justice Malaba last year for the large batch of by-elections and now with the main election approaching has always increased the team so that the decentralisation of the courts can be used to speed up work and delays need not occur.
The Electoral Court is defined as a court of record with exclusive jurisdiction to hear appeals, applications and petitions and to review any decision of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission or any other person made or purporting to have been made under that legal provision.
It shall have powers to give such judgments, orders and directions in those matters as might be given by the High Court.
The designation of the magistrates was “to try cases of politically motivated violence and intimidation in the provinces under which their names appear before, during and after the harmonised elections for President, Members of the National Assembly and councillors scheduled to take place on August 23.”
Legal analysts commended the setting of the Electoral Court saying it dovetailed well with the country’s desire to have credible elections.
“This is a legal requirement which is meant to safeguard the integrity of elections and it is a good move,” said Advocate Choice Damiso.
She however said there were still other means that ought to be attended that were outside the purview of judicial officers. “This is just but one of several other requirements to ensure a free and fair election like protection of women and vulnerable people from violence,” she said.
Parliament’s Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs portfolio committee chairperson, Cde Misheck Mataranyika commended the appointment.
“Who else is better qualified to handle electoral disputes than judges. So this is a progressive move that will ensure electoral disputes are handled expeditiously,” said Cde Mataranyika who is also a legal practitioner.
Another legal practitioner said the appointment of judges demonstrated Government’s commitment to a free and fair election.
“The appointment is consistent with the Electoral Act and shows commitment to deliver credible election,” said the lawyer who preferred anonymity.
The country is now in election mode after President Mnangagwa proclaimed August 23 as the date on which harmonised elections will be held.
The Nomination Court is set to sit at the High Court to consider nomination of presidential candidates while the same court will sit in all the 10 provincial capitals to consider and accept parliamentary and local authority candidates include party list candidates.
The President has also set October 2, 2023 as the day for run-off election, should there be no outright winner in the presidential election as contemplated by the Constitution.
The Nomination Court will sit at all council offices across the country to consider candidates for local authority elections. – Herald