Suspended High Court judge Justice Erica Ndewere has claimed interference by Chief Justice Luke Malaba, whom she accused of ordering her to deny bail to former Tourism minister Priscah Mupfumira and MDC Alliance deputy chairperson Job Sikhala who separately appeared before her on appeal.
Justice Ndewere was recently suspended by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) for improperly quashing a prison sentence imposed on a thief and also taking too long to deliver judgments and a recommendation has already been made to President Emmerson Mnangagwa to set up a tribunal to investigate her.
She, however, denies the charges, claiming she was being victimised for spurning Chief Justice Malaba’s “unlawful” orders.
On Monday, she approached the High Court seeking an interdict order to block Mnangagwa from setting a tribunal to investigate her.
In an urgent chamber application filed on Monday, Justice Ndewere accused Chief Justice Malaba of interfering with her verdicts, thus compromising judicial independence.
Through her lawyers Mtetwa and Nyambirai Legal Practitioners, Justice Ndewere said she was being victimised by Chief Justice Malaba for refusing to deny bail to Mupfumira and Sikhala.
“… In addition, the alleged complaints amount to victimisation in that I refused to comply with the said unlawful order,” Justice Ndewere said.
“The allegations are not only false and malicious, but are calculated to compromise my independence as a judge and give the second respondent unlawful power to control and direct judges to act upon his instructions as it suits him.”
She further said the setting up of the tribunal violated her right to administrative justice, equality before the law and right not to be treated in a discriminatory manner.
The beleaguered judge also said the complaints against her were improperly and unlawfully presented and submitted to the JSC by unknown persons without following due process.
“In addition, I shall move for an order that any disciplinary proceedings against a sitting judge shall be conducted in accordance with the regulations as read with the Constitution of Zimbabwe,” Justice Ndewere said, adding that she was not opposed to being investigated as she had nothing to hide.
“… however, this investigation is being weaponised as a means of attacking not just my independence as a judge, but the independence of the Judiciary as a whole,” she argued.
Justice Ndewere said Chief Justice Malaba threatened to investigate her in August 2019 after she spurned an order to deny Mupfumira bail.
She said on September 15, 2020, she reserved judgment in Sikhala’s bail appeal, but Chief Justice Malaba’s interference continued to haunt her.
“However, I refused to be intimidated and I considered the bail appeal on the merits and, after determining that it was a meritorious case, I granted Sikhala bail,” she said.
The judge also said after complaints were raised against her, her lawyers took issue with the fact that the complainant before the JSC was Chief Justice Malaba, not her immediate supervisor Judge President George Chiweshe.
The matter is yet to be set down for hearing.