”Courageous judge reportedly made Malaba “very unhappy” with bail ruling for opposition politician”
HARARE – A judge who recently granted bail to MDC vice chairman Job Sikhala has been suspended by the Judicial Service Commission headed by Chief Justice Luke Malaba.
Justice Erica Ndewere of the Harare High Court is accused of “misconduct and conduct inconsistent with being a judicial officer,” said Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs secretary Virginia Mabhiza.
The JSC has referred the matter to President Emmerson Mnangagwa to appoint a tribunal to “inquire into the question of removal from office of Justice Erica Ndewere,” Mabhiza added.
Sikhala, charged with incitement of violence, was granted bail on appeal by Justice Ndewere on September 22 after spending a month at the notorious Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison.
A day later, on September 23, legal commentator Alex Magaisa said he feared for Ndewere.
Magaisa wrote on Twitter: “Don’t underestimate the courage of the judge who gave Job Sikhala bail. I wouldn’t be surprised if she suffers for it. When you do things against the system’s wishes, the system finds something to hit you with. Sooner or later you will hear they are investigating Justice Ndewere for this and that.”
Before delivering her judgement, sources said that Ndewere “avoided the usual procedures and made sure the spies in the judicial structures didn’t have the judgement beforehand.”
Malaba was described as being “very unhappy” at the judge, which would have precipitated her suspension.
According to Magaisa, “individual judges are under pressure” to rule in favour of the government.
Ndewere is the second judge to be suspended after Justice Francis Bere of the Supreme Court had a tribunal appointed for him over allegations that he interfered in a civil case involving the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) and his relatives.
The tribunal sat without his input after he refused to cooperate following a refusal by the panel to have one of its members, Advocate Takawira Nzombe, recuse himself because of his alleged links to Harare lawyer Itayi Ndudzo, who was a key witness in the inquiry.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa described the anti-government protests that were planned for July 31, which Sikhala strongly agitated for, as an “insurrection”. His government has been accused of interfering with the legal system, particularly the lower courts, which routinely deny bail to human rights defenders and opposition activists.
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