President Emmerson Mnangagwa threw his justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi under the bus on Tuesday, declaring his government respects the “independence of the judiciary,” a damage-control rebuke of Ziyambi’s attack on High Court judges who blocked Luke Malaba’s extended stay as Chief Justice.
Ziyambi reacted with fury to Saturday’s extraordinary judgment by Justices Happias Zhou, Edith Mushore, and Helena Charewa, who ruled that Malaba was no longer the top judge as Mnangagwa had violated the constitution by extending his term by five years past retirement at 70.
The justice minister blew up and launched into a tirade, accusing the judges of capture by “foreign forces” to tarnish and “destabilise the “second Republic.”
“I want to make it clear today that we do not accept the decision of the High Court. We have a serious situation of a Judiciary that has been captured by foreign forces in this country,” Ziyambi said in a statement, adding “we are going to exercise our right in terms of the law and file an appeal against this baseless and meaningless decision of the High Court.”
Ziyambi’s outburst drew public backlash with human rights lawyers seeking his arrest for contempt of court.
And as the outrage snowballed, Mnangagwa stepped in to assure both the public and judicial officers, tweeting that, “In Zimbabwe, the independence of our judiciary is vital to the survival of our democracy. When our courts speak, all Zimbabweans should listen. The Government of Zimbabwe wholeheartedly respects the independence of our judiciary.”
Mnangagwa’s remarks came after a measured statement by justice secretary Virginia Mabhiza – diametrically different in tone from Ziyambi’s diatribe – saying government “strongly believes in the independence of the judiciary and respects the principles of the separation of powers as set out in the constitution of Zimbabwe.”
For that reason, Mabhiza said the government “recognizes the importance of the judiciary as a dependable interpreter of the law where various opinions may arise.”
“The government of Zimbabwe, therefore, wishes to assure the public that it has referred the resolution of the matter to the courts and awaits their final decision. Further, the authority of the judiciary and all its respective offices and structures remain in place with the courts fully functional in discharging their constitutional mandate,” Mabhiza added.-ZimLive