Zimbabwe leader's extension of chief justice tenure illegal, says court

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Zimbabwe's president Emmerson Mnangagwa and chief Justice Luke Malaba.
Zimbabwe's president Emmerson Mnangagwa and chief Justice Luke Malaba.
Wilfred Kajese / AFP
  • Court has ruled that the controversial extension of tenure of the country's top judge by president Emmerson Mnangagwa is illegal.
  • Just hours before Luke Malaba's retirement, the Zim president announced that he had extended his term of office by five years. 
  • This move by the president has been seen as consolidating the president's power, which then sparked the court feud. 

Zimbabwe's High Court on Saturday ruled that President Emmerson Mnangagwa's controversial extension of tenure of the country's top judge is illegal.

Mnangagwa announced last week that he had extended Luke Malaba's term of office by five years, just hours before the Chief Justice was due to retire, a move seen as aimed at consolidating the president's power.

Three high court judges sat through Friday night as lawyers argued over the legality of the extension.

The court ruled on Saturday that "Malaba ceased being a judge and Chief Justice of Zimbabwe at 0000hrs on 15 May 2021."

Malaba has been accused of favouring Mnangagwa's administration. He dismissed opposition leader Nelson Chamisa's presidential election petition following the 2018 vote.

Decrying the ruling as "baseless and meaningless", the government said the case was "a typical case of judicial overreach".

A ministry of justice and parliamentary affairs statement:

- The statement vowed to file an appeal, alleging that the judiciary "has been captured by foreign forces".

- The ministry said it had sought the recusal of one of the "clearly conflicted" Justices.

- It also added that "The judiciary should know where it ends".

Prior to seeking to extending the chief justice's tenure, the president signed into law a controversial constitutional amendment that changed provisions relating to the appointment of judges.

A litany of petitions are before the courts challenging the amendment which was railroaded through parliament and signed into law by Mnangagwa two weeks ago.

The president's critics say it was part of plan to keep a malleable judiciary fronted by Malaba.

MUST READ | Mnangagwa is power hungry

They fear that changes to the constitution, adopted in 2013, will undermine the independence of the judiciary and consolidate Mnangagwa's hold on power ahead of the next presidential election in 2023.

"Remarkable victory in defence of the Constitution!" Zimbabwe human rights lawyer Doug Coltart tweeted in the wake of the ruling.

Outspoken Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembga lauded it as a display of "courage and integrity" by Justice Happias Zhou, one of the judges targeted in the backlash.

"God bless and protect the judge," she tweeted.

Mnangagwa took over after longtime ruler Robert Mugabe was forced to resign by the military in November 2017.

Did you know you can comment on this article? Subscribe to News24 and add your voice to the conversation.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Zama zama crackdown: What are your thoughts on West Village residents taking the law into their own hands?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Authorities should bring in the army already
19% - 100 votes
Illegal miners can't be scapegoated for all crime
7% - 37 votes
What else did we expect without no proper policing
67% - 347 votes
Vigilante groups are also part of the problem
6% - 33 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.