CHIEF Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku yesterday exposed and castigated four lazy High Court judges for sitting on cases, with some going for a whole year with only two complicated cases.
SILAS NKALA/ CHARLES LAITON
Addressing guests that included Acting President and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa during the official opening of the 2015 legal year, Chidyausiku urged the lazy judges not to hide behind a constitutional provision that protects them from removal from office.
He said the four judges whom he, however, declined to name had completed 33 judgments last year, while Justice Nicholas Mathonsi had single-handedly handed down 72 judgments over the same period.
“While I believe that judicial officers are entitled to decent conditions of service and must demand these as right, I equally believe that judicial officers must earn their conditions of service,” Chidyausiku said.
“Constitutional provisions that protect judges from removal from office, while necessary to safeguard the independence of judges, should not be a cloak behind which to hide inefficiency and underperformance by judicial officers.
“I must confess that the reports for 2014 have left me with mixed feelings regarding the performance of judges at the Harare High Court.
“As I have said earlier, some judges at the Harare High Court performed extremely well and I am more than pleased with their performance.
“In this regard, let me mention Justice Mathonsi who, in the course of the year, wrote and handed down an impressive 72 judgments.
“His industry is revealed in its true dimensions if it is compared to the output of the least performing four judges, who had two, three, six and 11 judgments, respectively for the whole year.”
Chidyausiku later praised Justice Charles Hungwe, the fifth top performer at the High Court saying: “This is a remarkable turnaround, because over the years Justice Hungwe’s performance has been a cause for concern.
“He and I had conversations over the issue, I am delighted that the conversations have had a positive outcome. Keep it up judge.”
He singled out the performance of Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Nokuthula Moyo as top performer, saying she handed down 56 judgments in 2014.
Chidyausiku commended justices Andrew Mutema, Priscilla Chigumba and Loice Matanda-Moyo for keeping the High Court backlogs under check.
However, the Chief Justice raised concerns over the performance of the Gweru High Court, which he said after the transfer of Justice Maxwell Takuva to the Bulawayo bench, “the backlog has risen and continues to rise steadily as it now stands in excess of 200 cases”.
Turning to the performance of the Magistrates’ Court, Chief Justice Chidyausiku said he was impressed by the way the chief magistrate Mishrod Guvamombe had managed to reduce backlog in the Magistrates’ Court from 49 000 cases to 2 000 without any increase in the number of magistrates.
Officially opening the legal year in Bulawayo, High Court Judge President Justice George Chiweshe commended the Judicial Service Commission for buying top-of-the-range vehicles for High Court and Supreme Court judges, saying this had motivated them.
Officially opening of 2015 legal year, Chiweshe said the JSC must be commended for the strides it continues to make in supporting the judiciary and enhancing the working environment.
“Conditions of service for judges improved significantly during the year under review, particularly with regard the provision of appropriate motor vehicles,” he said.
“Judges have been motivated and individual performance has shot up.
“We thank the commission for this kind of support.”
The JSC bought Land Rover Discovery vehicles for judges, which Chiweshe said were a source of motivation.