Monday, 5 July 2021

JSC SEEKKS NINE HIGH COURT JUDGES

Nominations for candidates to fill the nine vacant posts on the High Court bench closed on Friday with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) now expected to select candidates for public interviews and put together the short-list of suitable qualified lawyers for President Mnangagwa to choose the final nine.

 The High Court has a total of 26 judges in Harare, Bulawayo, Masvingo and Mutare, the four divisions of the court.

This is after six judges from the court were recently elevated to the Supreme Court bench to replace five judges of that court who were appointed to the Constitutional Court, the highest court in the land.

The immediate-past Judge President of the High Court Justice George Chiweshe and Justices Alfas Chitakunye, Samuel Kudya, Felistus Chatukuta, Joseph Musakwa and Hlekani Mwayera — were last month sworn in as Supreme Court judges, a development which brought the superior court back to a full team after the promotion of five judges to the Constitutional Court. Appeals are normally heard by a bench of three Supreme Court judges.

The six new Supreme Court judges replaced Justices Paddington Garwe, Rita Makarau, Anne-Mary Gowora, Ben Hlatshwayo and Bharat Patel who were elevated to the Constitutional Court bench in May this year following the split last year of the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court.

While after the most recent constitutional amendments, public interviews are no longer required when judges are promoted from the High Court to the Supreme Court, they are still required when lawyers, which can include those already sitting as magistrates, are being shortlisted for appointment to the High Court.

JSC secretary Mr Walter Chikwana said: “Nominations were done at our various centres across the country’s 10 provinces,” he said.

 “We will be able to know how many candidates have been nominated after going through the nomination papers from the provinces. Once that process is done we will proceed to compile a list of the names nominated as we continue with the process leading to the public interviews on a date to be advised.”

The recruitment drive for more judges opened last month after the JSC invited members of the public to nominate eligible candidates to fill nine vacancies at the High Court bench.

In terms of Section 179 of the Constitution, a person qualified for appointment as a judge of the High Court must be at least 40-years-old, have been a a judge of a court with unlimited jurisdiction in civil or criminal matters in a country in which the common law is Roman-Dutch or English, and English is an officially recognised language or have been qualified to practise as a legal practitioner in Zimbabwe or in a country in which Roman-Dutch or English and English is an officially recognised language for at least seven years and is still so qualified, and is a Zimbabwean citizen.

After meeting those basic requirements, the prospective judge then has to show they are a proper person to hold office as a judge of the High Court, which is where their personal attributes, their standing in society and the legal profession, their legal experience and background and other factors not spelled out in the Constitution come into the reckoning. Herald

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