HARARE - Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku has reprimanded politicians in a thinly-veiled warning, demanding that they stop commenting on matters before the courts.
Analysts yesterday were quick to point out that the statement could have been directed at President Robert Mugabe, Information minister Jonathan Moyo and MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu among other people who have commented publicly about the lawsuit in which former Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa is challenging the constitutionality of the 2014 Zanu PF congress.
Chidyausiku warned politicians to stop being quoted in the public media about matters before the courts.
The State media twisted the statement yesterday, claiming that Chidyausiku was warning private media.
Last week, Mugabe warned the Judiciary not to entertain Mutasa’s challenge when he officially opened the Africa Chrome Fields (ACF)’s smelting plant in Chirumanzu-Zibagwe.
The nonagenarian leader, who holds a Law degree, controversially insinuated that he would question the qualifications of any judge who would attempt to hear the case.
This led to constitutional law expert, Lovemore Madhuku calling upon Chidyausiku to issue a statement warning the Executive to stop interfering with the Judiciary, as dictated by the time-honoured doctrine of separation of powers.
Chidyausiku on Tuesday warned every Zimbabwean to stop commenting on matters that are before the courts.
“The Chief Justice calls upon all to refrain from publicly commenting on matters under consideration by the courts in violation of the sub-judice rule,” Chidyausiku said in a statement.
The Chief Justice further said all matters before the courts will be determined according to the law.
“Notwithstanding the comments and reports on pending matters, the Chief Justice reassures all that matters before the courts are and will be determined in accordance with nothing other than the law,” he said.
“The Chief Justice notes with concern the proliferation in the public media of inappropriate comments on matters pending before the courts, contrary to the time honoured and internationally accepted practice of refraining from publicly commenting on matters that are sub-judice,” he said.
“The Chief Justice accepts that trials of court cases of a public interest nature may be reported and commented on.
“However, such reports and comments must not seek to, or be perceived as seeking to prejudice, influence or interfere with the due administration of justice or fair trials of the matters reported on.”
Madhuku told our sister paper the Daily News on Sunday that Mugabe’s remarks over Mutasa’s case were reckless and clear testimony that Africa’s oldest leader is living in the past.
“I think such remarks should be condemned as irresponsible,” Madhuku said.
“Mugabe is an old man living in the past.
“He thinks we are still in the period 1980 to 1985 when he used to intimidate judges. But that period is over and nowadays no judge is intimidated by threats from the Executive.”
The University of Zimbabwe lecturer added that it was clear that Mugabe was ignorant of the law, as there was no matter that could be said to be outside the ambit of the Judiciary.
“The major problem with Mugabe is that he has limited understanding of the law. He studied law in prison and he never went to a law school. So his understanding of law is limited.
“There is no matter or dispute that cannot be brought to court. Under the constitution, there is no matter that can be said to be non-judiciable. Mugabe is ignorant of this fact.”
Madhuku added that Mutasa’s lawyers should capitalise on Mugabe’s remarks to dismiss the nonagenarian’s defence in court.
“What his lawyers should do when they go to court is to raise the issue that Mugabe’s remarks, as one of the respondents, were inappropriate as the matter is sub-judice, and therefore his defence in court should be dismissed on that basis,” he said.
“Unfortunately, there are no remedies to the matter because a president cannot be arrested. But the Chief Justice can issue a statement like what Chief Justice Enoch Dumbutshena did in 1989 calling upon the Executive to stop interfering with the Judiciary,” Madhuku said.