‘Stay in your lane’ – lull over constitutional amendment escalates

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi

HARARE – Government has said the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) appears to be losing its mandate by pursuing Western political objectives through unwarranted criticism of national policies.

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said the LSZ should return to its original identity of being “Zimbabwean” and desist from turning into political activism.

Minister Ziyambi said this last week following a statement by LSZ criticising Government for the proposed constitutional amendments.

The amendments, which were described by the LSZ as retrogressive and undesirable, were approved by Cabinet last week.

“The LSZ has lost its mandate,” said Minister Ziyambi in an interview with the State media.

“They have converted themselves into an activist lobby group. They no longer know why they exist, they have lost their bearings.”

In its statement, the LSZ criticised the proposed amendment for the appointment of the Prosecutor-General, which allows the President to appoint the incumbent after consultations with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

The law forum said such a scenario undermined the PG’s independence by emasculating a position they felt was pivotal in the criminal justice system, but Minister Ziyambi said the PG was not a judge.

“What ought to be known is that the PG prosecutes on behalf of the State,” he said. “What is wrong for him to be appointed by the Head of State? What they are saying is nonsense.”

On appointment of judges, the LSZ said Government should have retained the interview process when a High Court judge was being promoted to a superior court such as the Supreme Court or the Constitutional Court.

The new amendments seek to provide for the President to appoint a sitting judge to a higher court upon consultation with JSC.

“This approach seeks to reverse the elaborate, and transparent system currently in place,” read a statement from the LSZ.

“It is not clear why we should depart from the current system.”

But Minister Ziyambi slammed the LSZ for misdirecting itself, saying a sitting judge would have already been interviewed by a competent panel to be a judge of the High Court.

He said there was no need to humiliate a sitting judge through another interview when being considered for promotion.

“We are saying the process of interviews will remain, but it will only apply to those who are not judges,” said Ziyambi.

“For the person to be a judge of the High Court, he or she would have been interviewed by a panel from JSC, which is almost the same with the one which the LSZ wants to interview him or her again when consideration for promotion is being made.

“It does not make sense. Besides, you want a sitting judge to be humiliated and expect him or her to retain the same respect that he had?”

Turning to the removal of running mates in the Constitution, Minister Ziyambi said the provision was not desirous since it created two centres of power.

In its statement, LSZ said the rationale for introducing the concept of running mates was to have a non-disruptive succession plan and ensuring that the Vice President would assume the office of the President with the people’s full mandate.