During his first term in office, President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa’s government changed the constitution to allow him to appoint senior judges without going through a public vetting process.
The opposition and critics accused Mnangagwa of seeking to influence the judiciary, the charges which the president denied.
Mnangagwa went on to amend the constitution so as to raise the retirement age of Constitutional and Supreme Court judges from the age of 70 to 75.
Lawyers challenged the constitutional amendment that allowed Mnangagwa to extend Chief Justice Luke Malaba’s term of office by another five years perceived as a prepration to validate the 2023 elections which was presumed to spill in courts like the 2018 one.
Mnangagwa forcefully managed to extend Malaba’s term of office and this resultantly saw unprecedented miscarriage of justice in the country.
The justice system was reandered so poor by unconstitutional amendment of the constitution. The judicial system became so poor that it failed to address the major tenants of a free and fair judiciary.
There is a strong link between poverty, disempowerment, and poor access to justice. Poverty both fosters and is itself a consequence of injustice.
This write up will not delve on how injustice accelerates poverty or how poverty is a result of skewed justice.
The resulting cycle of victimisation and discrimination impedes the resolution of everyday legal problems.
Poverty is intricately intertwined with accessing all areas of justice, and invokes complex challenges for individuals who are in contact with the criminal justice system.
The write up will dissect how the country is experiencing poverty of justice. The lack of a fair and free justice system as will be higlighted below solidifies the fact that the justice system in the country is poor.
The majority of the population do not trust the judicial system and reluctantly approach the courts especially if faced with political related issues.
Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) did not attempt to approach the Constitution Court to seek redress to the Zimbabwe August 2023 elections which they believe Zimbabwe Electoral Commission rigged in favour of ZANU PF.
This is because the opposition were not satisfied with the experience from 2018 elections appeal and the unceremonial extension of Malaba as the Chief Justice.
Generally there is no confidence among the people of Zimbabwe on the fairness, and the transparency of judiciary which is perceived as been captured.
Few days before Zimbabweans voted, senior judges received houses worth thousands of US Dollars and also received new vehicles which the public view as an indication of a captured judiciary by the ruling party, ZANU-PF.
The judiciary has been criticised for being used to punish government critics and dissenting voices especially of opposition political members.
On 5 April 2023, elected Member of Parliament of CCC, Fadzayi Mahere was convicted and fined US$ 500 for “publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the state” after she posted a video on X (Twitter) alleging that a police officer had killed a baby.
The law in which Mahere was convicted does not exist.
Hopewell Chin’ono, a journalist who had published same video under same Mahere’s circumstances had earlier on been acquitted of the charges.
Jacob Ngarivhume, on 28 April 2023 was convicted and sentenced to 48 months in prison on charges of inciting violence.
12 months of the sentence were suspended. It is argued that Ngarivhume was simply convicted for exercising his right to freedom of expression after leading and organising peaceful anti-corruption protests on 31 July, 2020.
Tsitsi Dangarembga, a Zimbabwean author and activist, and Julie Barnes were convicted for “inciting violence” in 2022 and handed a six-month suspended sentence each for participating in the 31 July 2020 protests.
Perpertual incarcerated opposition member, Job Sikhala is on record saying he is a political prisoner and his “persecution” is a reflection of a down-trodden society yearning for justice.
Sikhala who has spent over a year in remand prison is being charged with incitement to public violence after violence erupted in Chitungwiza’s Nyatsime area following the murder of Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) activist Moreblessing Ali.
In a letter dated September 21, 2022, from Chikurubhi Maximum Security Prison, Sikhala said he was being persecuted for being the voice of the voiceless.
“Our arrest is purely political persecution by a regime afraid of dissent and democratic discourse in the country.
We are victims of our beliefs, beliefs which we dearly hold, belief that Zimbabwe must be a free society devoid of callous murders and killings of those holding differing views and opinions,” Sikhala wrote.
Zimbabwean Republic Police recently arrested and detained Harare human rights lawyers Douglas Coltart and Tapiwa Muchineripi representing opposition CCC members Womberaishe Nhende and Sonele Mukhuhlani who were abducted and tortured by allegedly state security agents on Saturday.
The arrest of the two prominent human rights lawyers on the coronation day of Mnangagwa’s second term as the President of the country is a clear indication of what awaits Zimbabweans in the five years to come.
Zimbabweans are in for another five years of extreme justice poverty.