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Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe Unilaterally Appoints Judges As MDC Cry Foul

Published on Sunday 23rd May 2010

Any pretence that the coalition is working smoothly was buried this week when Robert Mugabe appointed a new Supreme Court judge and four High Court judges, without the knowledge of his MDC partners in government.

To emphasize his powers Mugabe also promoted Retired Brigadier General George Chiweshe as the new High Court Judge President. Chiweshe is the former chairperson of the discredited Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, that kept Mugabe in power in 2008 by withholding election results for a month while massaging the figures.

The unilateral appointments have seen outgoing High Court Judge President Rita Makarau being propelled into the Supreme Court, while Nicholas Mathonsi (brother to MDC-M secretary-general Welshman Ncube), Andrew Mutema and Garainesu Mawadze, become judges in the High Court based in Bulawayo.

Even Deputy Justice Minister Jessie Majome from the MDC-T had no clue what was happening. She expressed shock at the developments and said she was only invited to the swearing-in ceremony at the last minute.

MDC-T spokesman Nelson Chamisa reacted with outrage, saying Prime Minister Tsvangirai had not been consulted.

"We're gob smacked. This is another act in addition to the catalogue of GPA violations and President Mugabe's unilateralism. ZANU PF pretends inclusivity, but acts exclusively," Chamisa said. MDC-T Secretary for Legal Affairs, Innocent Gonese, said the promotion of Chiweshe was a clear reward for helping to rig the elections in 2008.

ZANU PF meanwhile claimed that under the constitution Mugabe does not need to consult anyone, except for the Judicial Service Commission, before appointing judges. Minister Majome however disputed, this telling Newsreel on Friday that Article 20 of the Global Political Agreement (GPA), which was incorporated under Constitutional Amendment 19, makes it clear all appointments have to be made by the President in consultation with the Prime Minister.

Turning to the Judicial Service Commission, Majome told us she asked questions about its composition, regularity of meetings and when they last met, and she was asked to write a letter to the Master of the High Court. That letter was written on the 3rd May this year and she still has not received an answer.

Newsreel understands the commission is composed of Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku; the chairman of the Public Service Commission; Attorney General Johannes Tomana; and two other people selected by Mugabe. The only person who could even remotely be regarded as independent is lawyer Sternford Moyo, but it seems even he was unaware about the selection of new judges.

Sympathy for the MDC however is running thin. Supporters have expressed frustration that one day top officials are singing the praises of the coalition government and on others crying foul about violations of the agreement. This inconsistency is driving sympathy away, with one commentator saying 'they made their bed they must now sleep on it.'

National Constitutional Assembly chairperson Lovemore Madhuku was more direct, telling the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper that "Tsvangirai is to blame, he is the one who claims that all is well in the inclusive government."

Also highlighting the unworkability of the coalition were recent remarks by Mugabe that the MDC "had remained stooges and bootlickers of the country's former colonizers." Speaking to his ZANU PF party newspaper The People's Voice, Mugabe claimed the MDC 'upholds the interests of imperialists and colonialists" and were "in the same camp as the enemies of the people."

And only last week ZANU PF pushed for a state appeal of the acquittal on terrorism charges of MDC treasurer Roy Bennett. The move was seen as a deliberate attempt to prolong Mugabe's refusal to swear him into office as Deputy Agriculture Minister.

Little wonder the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has called for fresh presidential elections monitored, by SADC, the African Union and the international community. The ZCTU said the coalition government had been dogged by disputes since it was formed in February last year and has not made any progress since. Acting Secretary General Japhet Moyo said "The GNU has been characterized by impasses, name calling and mistrust among the political parties, while the majority of Zimbabweans continue to suffer."

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