Justice Service Commission searches for new chief justice

Lovemore Lubinda

The Justice Service Commission (JSC) in Zimbabwe has formally announced the coming vacant position of the chief justice and invited members of the public to nominate suitably qualified candidates for appointment as Zimbabwe’s next Chief Justice.

This follows the retirement of Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku who will leave the bench at the end of February next year when he will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 years, after 15 years at the helm.

This procedure is in line with section 180 of the constitution of Zimbabwe, and applies to all judicial appointments. The section obliges the JSC whenever a judicial appointment is required to advertise the vacant position and invite the President and members of the public to make nominations.

The formal qualifications are the same as those for the post of Supreme or Constitutional Court judge. To be appointed a candidate must be at least 40 years old, a Zimbabwean citizen and either have been a judge of a court or unlimited civil or criminal jurisdiction in Zimbabwe or a country in which English is the official language and the common law is Roman Dutch.

The next chief justice should not be one of the current Supreme Court judges, but instead could come from the High Court bench or legal profession. A person with no previous judicial experience could be nominated provided has at least 10 years experience as a legal practitioner.

The President cannot appoint someone whose name was not submitted by the commission, if he thinks that none from the list is suitable, he can communicate with the JSC so that it comes out with another list of nominees.

Chief Justice Chidyausiku was born in February 1947. After graduation from the University of Zimbabwe in 1972 he went into private practice as an advocate. He was once an MP in the Rhodesian Parliament representing Harare African Roll constituency. In the 1980 elections he was returned as a ZANU MP and briefly served as Deputy Minister of Local Government and deputy Minister of Justice before being appointed Attorney General in 1982. In 1987 he was appointed High Court judge and in due course became judge-president of the High Court. In May 2001 he was appointed acting Chief Justice and became substantive Chief Justice a few months later, making him the longest serving Chief Justice of Zimbabwe.