Friday 21 April 2023


BULAWAYO High Court judge, Justice Martin Makonese, now faces a tribunal investigating his suitability for judicial office after he issued an order in a commercial dispute in which he allegedly had a financial interest.

President Mnangagwa yesterday set up the tribunal on the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission.

Justice Makonese is now suspended pending the finalisation of the investigation, the standard procedure when a tribunal is set up.

Judges normally serve until they are 70, or 75 if they choose and are in good health, and can only be dismissed in terms of the Constitution in a complex procedure that first involves the Judicial Service Commission recommending that the President sets up a tribunal to probe what is seen as improper conduct.

That commission has to be chaired by a retired judge plus two independent senior lawyers.

If the tribunal finds there is conduct so improper that the judge can no longer sit on the bench, the President can dismiss the judge based on the recommendations.

The complex procedure is to ensure that judges remain independent from all outside pressure, regardless of their decisions, so long as they behave with integrity and do their work diligently.

Justice Makonese becomes the fourth judge in the Second Republic to be hauled before a tribunal to look into the question of his suitability to continue working as a judge.

Supreme Court judge Justice Francis Bere and High Court judges Justices Erica Ndewere and Thompson Mabhikwa have since been fired from the bench over gross misconduct.

In a gazette notice dated April 20, President Mnangagwa appointed the three-member team headed by retired judge Justice Simbi Mubako to inquire into the allegations against Justice Makonese and determine his suitability to hold the top judicial office.

The other members are Mr Gift Manyatera and Mrs Sarah Moyo, both practising lawyers.

The complaint against Justice Makonese followed an order he issued in a commercial dispute in which he allegedly had a financial interest.

Allegations arose when he allegedly made the order without an application made before him, and without the knowledge of lawyers of the two other parties in the dispute.

The dispute over a coal mine in Hwange pits a company called Philcool Investments, who were the applicants, and two others called Hwange Coal Gasification and Taiyuan Sanxing, who were the respondents during the hearing purportedly held on October 12 last year.

There is serious doubt that the hearing took place.

Justice Makonese’s order gave Philcool the relief sought, including ordering the other two to abandon pending court applications.

Representatives of Philcool Investments reportedly tried to enforce the order and were arrested.

The tribunal has five months to complete the probe from the date of taking oaths before the President.

While the President appoints the tribunal to look into a judge’s conduct, there has to be a recommendation by the JSC that he does so.

The President’s options are then limited.

If the tribunal clears the judge, that ends the matter. If the tribunal recommends action or dismissal, the President can accept the advice, or just leave the matter hanging in the air. Chronicle


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