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

accreditation
0:00
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 only R75 per month, you 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.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
Should Covid-19 vaccinations be mandatory for employees in workplaces?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes, it is the responsible thing to do
45% - 1456 votes
No, vaccination should be an individual choice
44% - 1397 votes
No, but those who are unvaccinated should have to work from home
11% - 353 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
14.71
+0.5%
Rand - Pound
20.46
+0.3%
Rand - Euro
17.43
+0.2%
Rand - Aus dollar
10.85
+0.3%
Rand - Yen
0.13
+0.6%
Gold
1,807.90
+0.5%
Silver
24.98
+1.2%
Palladium
2,628.86
+0.8%
Platinum
1,070.75
+1.5%
Brent Crude
74.48
-0.0%
Top 40
62,369
+1.9%
All Share
68,526
+1.8%
Resource 10
70,272
+1.3%
Industrial 25
87,347
+2.8%
Financial 15
12,825
+0.2%
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.

LEARN MORE