Judgment reserved in Malaba contempt case as third judge recuses himself
A two-judge panel of the High Court heard the contempt case against embattled Chief Justice Luke Malaba and reserved judgment on Thursday after a third judge was forced to recuse himself following allegations he may have tried to influence the case.
Justice Webster Chinamora confessed in chambers to meeting with Judicial Service Commission (JSC) secretary Walter Chikwana last week, somewhat confirming claims by exiled former minister Professor Jonathan Moyo that Chinamora had lobbied his peers to cut Malaba some slack.
Moyo claimed on Monday that panic had “gripped JSC corridors today when one of the members of the three-panel bench to hear the Malaba contempt case this Thursday, who had been assigned to lobby the other two for Malaba, reported back to JSC secretary to ask him to get Virginia Mabhiza [justice secretary] to rescue Malaba.”
The exposé must have rattled Chinamora, forcing him to step aside leaving Justices Amy Tsanga and Slyvia Chirawu-Mugomba to proceed with the hearing despite objections to the panel’s composition by the defense counsel.
After a day of submissions, the two justices reserved judgment to sometime next week.
The contempt of court charges against Malaba were brought by lawyer Musa Kika, director of the civic group Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, who accused the Chief Justice of reporting for duty in defiance of a High Court ruling that said his term of office had ended on May 15 when he reached retirement at 70 and that the five-year extension of his stay by President Emmerson Mnangagwa following contested constitutional amendments was illegal.