The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) welcomes the ruling by the High Court of Zimbabwe on 15 May 2021, in upholding the integrity of the Constitution of Zimbabwe and confirming what we have always said about the illegality of Constitution Amendment Bill Number 2 which was hastily rushed through Parliament and signed into law by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on 7 May 2021.
The High Court, following an urgent court application by Dr. Musa Kika of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (to which ZimRights is a member) and the Zimbabwe Young Lawyers Association (ZYLA), ruled that section 186, which is the amendment attempting to extend the tenure of the Chief Justice, the judges of the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court, does not apply to the judges currently holding such an office because of section 328 (7) of the Constitution. The court ruled that Honourable Luke Malaba had ceased being a Chief Justice and a Constitutional Court Judge at midnight on 14 May 2021 when he turned 70. We thank the former CJ for his service to the nation and wish him a happy birthday and retirement.
ZimRights welcomes this decision as a victory for the Constitution and a victory for the people of Zimbabwe. Since January 2020, ZimRights has always insisted that politicians must keep their hands off the people’s constitution and urged citizens to rise in defence of the Constitution as this is a war against authoritarianism. At the #ResistDicatorship Constitution Rally attended by thousands of patriotic Zimbabweans on 6 May 2021, thousands of Zimbabweans warned President Emmerson Mnangagwa not to sign the bill and demanded Honourable Malaba to step down as the Constitution demands.
ZimRights is however appalled by the response by Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary affairs who in response to the High Court ruling has threatened ‘to poke the eyes of the judiciary’ because they reached a decision that is not favourable to the executive’s authoritarian plans for the country. The statement by Ziyambi Ziyambi must be condemned as an attack on the independence of the judiciary and a threat against the personal security of the judges who heard the case. The Minister has indicated that he plans to use his political powers to undermine the judiciary. Indeed, he has already shown great contempt for the judiciary in a manner that warrants criminal sanction. Section 164 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe guarantees the independence of the judiciary. Section 164 (2) states that the independence, impartiality and effectiveness of the courts are central to the rule of law and democratic governance. The Constitution goes on to state that neither the State nor any institution or agency of the government at any level, and no other person, may interfere with the functioning of the courts.
By making threats against the judges, calling them ‘enemy’ and threatening to ‘poke their eyes’, the Minister is committing a grave offence against the constitution and we strongly rebuke him and demand that he keeps his hands off the judiciary and the Constitution.
While the Constitutional challenge by Kika and ZYLA is just one among many, the battle for the defence of the Constitution is just beginning. The people of Zimbabwe will not rest until the return to Constitutional order.