Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Chief Justice exposes how some High Court judges are sleeping on the job.

Opening the 2015 Legal Year, the Chief Justice exposed how some High Court judges are sleeping on the job, saying such a lethargic approach to work could force judicial authorities to tighten recruitment measures.

Currently, candidates who are shortlisted by the Judicial Service Commission after public interviews and subsequently endorsed by the President are immediately confirmed to the Bench.

Zimbabwe’s Constitution provides for a rigorous procedure before removing a judge from office in a bid to promote and protect independence of the Judiciary. Chief Justice Chidyausiku, however, said there could be need for a relook at the procedure.
Shocking laziness among some judges is forcing authorities to consider putting candidates on probation before being confirmed to the Bench, Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku has said.
“Constitutional provisions that protect judges from removal from office, while necessary to safeguard the independence of judges, should not be a cloak behind which to hide inefficiency and underperformance by judicial officers. In future, it may be necessary to appoint all judges on probation before confirming their appointments in accordance with the Constitution,” he said.

Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku said conditions of service for judicial officers are still pathetic, but warned he will not tolerate officers seeking to use meagre remuneration as an excuse for poor performance.

He exposed how, despite similar conditions, some judges were playing truant while others slaved to produce quality judgments. Justice Nicholas Mathonsi was named as the High Court’s best performer with an “impressive” 72 judgments. Other top performers named by Chief Justice Chidyausiku are Justices Moyo, Chigumba and Matanda–Moyo and Charles Hungwe.

“His industry is revealed in its true dimensions if it is compared to the output of the least performing four judges, who had 2, 3, 6 and 11 judgments respectively for the whole year. The four of them wrote and delivered 33 judgments in all for the year 2014, less than half what Justice Mathonsi handed down,” said Chief Justice Chidyausiku, in reference to Justice Mathonsi adding: “The four Justices and Justice Mathonsi operate in the same environment and are subject to the same limited and unattractive conditions of service. As head of the Judiciary I will accept no explanation that will seek to justify such low output as compared to what is possible within the same constraints.”

“The message that I wish to convey in simple terms is this: The reality of the situation in Zimbabwe is that resources are limited. This is likely to remain so for a while. We should not simply throw up our hands into the air in despair. We should make the best of the unfortunate situation, namely to use the limited resources at our disposal to make our lives as Zimbabweans better.

“The magistrates have shown us the way by reducing their backlog from 49 000 to 2 000. They have demonstrated what can be achieved despite limited resources. All it takes is a change of attitude towards work and an application of one’s self to the best of one’s ability,” said Chief Justice Chidyausiku.

“Allow me to express my disquiet over the conditions of service of all judicial officers. Our magistrates and judges and all those who support them need to be adequately remunerated. This is not only desirable but the Constitution provides for that.

“I am on record as saying that a judicial officer who is not appropriately housed and has no reliable transport to and from court is most vulnerable and liable to be compromised. I am still of the same view and plead with the powers that be to assist us to curb corruption in the justice delivery chain by improving on the conditions of service for all judges, magistrates, the police, prisons officers and prosecutors alike,” he said.

“While I believe that judicial officers are entitled to decent conditions of service and must demand these as of right, I equally believe that judicial officers must earn their conditions of service,” said Chief Justice Chidyausiku. Via Probation for judges? – The Zimbabwean
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