The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has published advertisements announcing nine vacancies for judges of the High Court and invited members of the public to submit nominations for suitably qualified persons to fill the vacancies. The deadline for submission of nominations is Friday 2nd July 2021. The vacancies include those arising from the President’s recent appointment of six High Court judges to the Supreme Court , see Court Watch 11/2021.
Procedure for Nominations from the Public
The nomination form: The nomination form provided by the JSC should be used. It is obtainable from the office of the Secretary of the JSC, House Number 161 Josiah Chinamano Avenue, corner Josiah Chinamano Avenue and Seventh Street, Harare, OR from the office of a Provincial Magistrate in charge of a province. Note: The nomination form is available on the Veritas website.
Curriculum vitae: The candidate’s CV is also required. The nominee must signify acceptance of the nomination in the appropriate place on the nomination form.
Submission of completed nomination forms: Completed nomination forms [one form for each nominee], with the nominee’s curriculum vitae attached, must be submitted to the JSC at the addresses given above.
Deadline: Reminder; the deadline for submission of nominations is close of business on Friday 2 July 2021.
Qualifications of the Judges of the High Court
The qualifications of judges of the High Court of Zimbabwe are set out as follows in section 179 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe:
(1) A person is qualified for appointment as a judge of the High Court if he or she is at least forty years old and, in addition—
(a) is or has been 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
(b) for at least seven years, whether continuously or not, he or she has been qualified to practise as a legal practitioner-
(i) in Zimbabwe;
(ii) in a country in which the common law is Roman-Dutch and English is an officially recognised language; or
(iii) if he or she is a Zimbabwean citizen, in a country in which the common law is English and English is an officially recognised language; and is currently so qualified to practise.
(2) To be appointed as a judge of the High Court a person must be a fit and proper person to hold office as a judge.
Procedure for Appointment of High Court Judges Unchanged Despite Constitutional Amendments
The procedure for appointing judges of the High Court is laid down in section 180 of the Constitution. The JSC has to advertise the vacant positions, inviting the President and the public to make nominations, and then has to conduct public interviews of prospective candidates to select suitable persons for nomination to the office. The JSC then sends the President a list of nominees out of which the President must appoint the judges, though if the President does not think any of the nominees are suitable he may ask the JSC to submit another list.
A point of interest is that the procedure for the appointment of High Court judges has remained unchanged since the present Constitution came into force in 2013, despite the fact that section 180 of the Constitution has been affected by both Constitutional Amendments No. 1 of 2017 and No. 2 of this year. Neither Constitutional Amendment changed the elaborate process for the appointment of High Court judges; the changes affected only appointments to the office of Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice and Judge President and judges of the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court.
This means that although both the validity of both Constitutional Amendments No. 1 and No. 2 have been challenged in cases lodged in the Constitutional Court, the validity of these High Court appointments will not be affected by the rulings in those cases, whichever way they happen to go.
If however the Constitutional Court finds that the Constitutional Amendments are invalid, it will affect the appointment of the six High Court judges to the Supreme Court, reported in Court Watch 11/2021 of the 13th June. Those six judges will revert to being High Court judges, which will result in a rather crowded High Court bench unless some of them are re-appointed to the Supreme Court.