Why Mnangagwa doesn’t want Zhou as Chief Justice

The late President Robert Mugabe appointing Justice Anne-Mary Gowora and Advocate Happias Zhou judges

REASONS why President Emmerson Mnangagwa strongly dislikes High Justice Happias Zhou – who led a brave judicial panel that dramatically blocked Justice Luke Malaba’s controversial tenure extension last week – have emerged, showing his fierce independent streak that unsettled political officialdom.


Mnangagwa blocked Zhou from becoming a Constitutional Court judge after interviews last year in which he came third out of 12 shortlisted candidates for several rea-sons: his independent mind, association with the original opposition MDC then under its founding leader, the late Morgan Tsvangirai; resistance to Malaba’s judicial capture project and fearless judgements against the government.

In the aftermath of the High Court judgement against Mal-aba, Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi made an explosive outburst against Judge President George Chiweshe and his High Court colleagues Edith Mushore, Jesta Helena Chare-wa and Zhou.

“We are going to poke the enemy in the eye and confront it,” Ziyambi said. Zhou was appointed judge in 2012 by the late former president Robert Mugabe in consultation with Tsvangirai as prime minister during the Government of National Uni-ty which lasted from 2009 to 2013. He was sworn in on 2 May 2012 at State House.

The then Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa and the late chief justice Godfrey Chidyausiku and former Judicial services Commission (JSC) secretary and Supreme Court judge Rita Makarau were in attendance. In February 2014, Zhou later became a JSC member. Prior to that he was in pri-vate practice at the Advocates’ Chambers at Old Mutual Centre on Third Street.

Zhou has delivered many troubling judgements which government did not like, hence Mnangagwa’s disdain of him, according to senior officials.

After the June 2000 parliamentary elections, which the MDC narrowly lost to Zanu PF, Zhou represented in court Crispa Musoni, the opposition candidate for Gutu North, but withdrew his petition in the High Court challenging the late vice-president Simon Muzenda, the Zanu PF candidate.

Zhou told then High Court Justice James Devittie that his client did not wish to pursue the matter. He did not give reasons for the withdrawal. In his petition, Musoni had said Muzenda won the election through corrupt practices.

He also alleged that war veterans and Zanu PF supporters had intimidated and attacked his supporters in the run-up to the election. Muzenda had polled 14 867 votes against Musoni’s 8 179 votes. Zhou in 2018 scrapped Statutory Instrument (SI) 205 of 2018, which enabled the government to levy 2% on electronic money transactions above ZW$10.

The tax was introduced by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube. Last year Zhou set aside Ha-rare magistrate Ngoni Nduna’s ruling which barred prominent lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa from representing award-winning journalist Hopewell Chin’ono. Zhou further disqualified Nduna from presiding over Chino’no’s criminal trial and ordered that a new magistrate presides over the case.

In another case, Zhou also interdicted any persons, including the police and home affairs, from preventing Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association leader Dr Peter Magombeyi, from leaving the country for the purpose of seeking medical treatment.

At one time Zhou released 57 political activists who participated in demonstrations in 2016. In retaliation against all the judgements they did not like, the government last year blocked Zhou in the running to become one of seven members of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea when his nomination was withdrawn without his knowledge.

Also last year Zhou ruled that Harare architects Stone/Beattie Studio were entitled to the US$142 000 it had deposited with CABS. Conversion of that balance into local currency, a result of Exchange Control R120/2018 directive issued by RBZ on 4 October 2018, was a violation of property rights, the judge ruled.

In 2002, Zhou represented Tsvangirai after the disputed presidential election against Mugabe. In that case, he worked with veteran lawyers including Advocate Jere-my Gauntlet of South Africa, Advocate Adrian de Bourbon (now based in South Africa) and Bryant Elliot as an attorney. Further, Zhou also delivered a judgement that co-habiting for decades without any payment of lobola does not up-grade a relationship to a legitimate marriage for purposes of inheritance.

However, his most impactful judgement is the Malaba one. No wonder Mnangagwa blocked Zhou from becoming a Constitutional Court judge. – News Hawks

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