Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Judge who defended Prophet now in trouble

Pamela Shumba Senior Reporter
A JUDGE was yesterday caught up in a bizarre religious zealotry scandal after springing to the defence of a cult leader in a full-page newspaper advert. Bulawayo Labour Court Judge Mercy Moya-Matshanga, in the advert, claimed Reverend Tititi Moyo – believed to be a prophet by followers – was a “true man of God” as she fought newspaper claims that he was a “Satanist”.

Justice Moya-Matshanga – once criticised by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku for lacking a basic understanding of court procedures – sought to “set the record straight” about what she claimed were malicious falsehoods being peddled about Rev Moyo.

The judge went on to sign off as “The Honourable Mercy Moya-Matshanga (Mrs) – Judge of the Labour Court of Zimbabwe”. Her husband, Michael Moya-Matshanga, appended his signature below hers, saying, ‘I agree’.
Judge who defended Prophet now in trouble
“Just as his master Jesus was persecuted, the right reverend and prophet was also accused of falsehoods and has been arrested before. I have known him for 30 years now. He has preached this message without fear despite treachery, persecutions, trials and tribulations,” the judge said in an advert placed in the Southern Eye.

Justice Matshanga described how she and her husband had witnessed “heavenly healing powers” through Rev Moyo, adding that the prophet baptised the Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa.

“The VP was drenched in water upon conclusion of the baptism while the prophet was completely dry. On being asked by the VP why he was dry, the prophet told him that it was the VP who was being baptised not him,” she stated.

But some lawyers and a fellow judge yesterday said Justice Matshanga had tried to use her position as a judge of the Labour Court to import importance to her statement.

One lawyer, who cannot be named for professional reasons, said last night: “There’s nothing wrong with the article because that’s what she believes, but there’s everything wrong with the signing.

“It’s totally unethical and unprofessional for her to include her designation because it has nothing to do with the article.

“One would think the letter has been written on behalf of the Labour Court. It also gives an impression that people are being forced to believe in this so-called prophet because he has managed to convince influential people such as judges.”

The lawyer added that such kind of behaviour was unacceptable in a democratic society.

“Judges who are well-mannered, sufficiently trained and ethical don’t do such things. It’s unacceptable in a democratic society that we’re living in.

“We can’t allow people to take advantage of their respected offices to mislead the society. The co-signing with her husband makes it worse because it’s as if it’s a judgement on appeal.”

A High Court judge, also speaking on condition he was not named, yesterday said Justice Matshanga’s conduct amounted to a “sackable offence”.

“She is brazenly abusing her position as a judge to legitimise her faith conviction. The law, like science, deals in facts not make-believe sentimentalities. What she’s doing here is very clear, it’s a deliberate attempt to put a legitimising stamp on this ‘prophet’. She is a religious zealot, not a judge. This is a sackable offence,” the judge said.

Another veteran lawyer, however, watered down the allegations and said there was nothing wrong with Justice Matshanga’s letter because it does not compromise the discharge of her duties. “Judges are only not allowed to join political parties because they might not be impartial when conducting their duties, but they’re free to join churches of their choice,” he said.

“If the letter is clear that she’s representing herself and members of the church, there’s nothing wrong. The fact that she’s a judge doesn’t count.”

Justice Matshanga, who is not new to controvesy, was dressed down during interviews for Supreme Court promotion in July last year by Chief Justice Chidyausiku for failing to distinguish between a “court application” and a “court action”.

Chidyausiku said: “How do you expect to scrutinise judgements from experienced High Court judges if you don’t know elementary things such as rules of that court?

“Do you think you’re qualified to be a Supreme Court judge? Who do you expect to teach you?”

In a “court application”, there is no material dispute of fact and judges deliver verdicts based on papers brought to court, while in a “court action” there is material dispute of facts and witnesses can be brought and a litigant is allowed to bring further evidence. Chronicles
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