The Constitutional and Supreme Courts were yesterday separated with different judges in each court and the Constitutional Court having seven judges, including the Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice.
Under the old Constitution, the Supreme Court heard constitutional cases. Under the present Constitution, there is a separate Constitutional Court but from 2013 until yesterday judges of the Supreme Court would also sit in the Constitutional Court when that court was in session.
Chief Justice Luke Malaba yesterday appointed acting judges —Justices Paddington Garwe, Rita Makarau, Annie-Mary Gowora, Ben Hlatshwayo and Bharat Patel — to sit on the constitutional bench pending substantive appointments of permanent judges for the court.
The five join the Chief Justice and his deputy Justice Elizabeth Gwaunza on the Constitutional Court bench.
The courts and their judges will now be physically separate. The Supreme Court will now sit in the old Supreme Court Building on the corner of Third Street and Nelson Mandela Avenue, with all judges having chambers there, while the Constitutional Court will sit in Mashonganyika Building along Samora Machel Avenue.
Speaking during the occasion to mark the official separation of the two courts, Chief Justice Malaba said: “These appointments are only for a very limited period and the substantive appointment of permanent judges for the Constitutional Court will be done in due course in terms of the Constitution.”
The separation of the courts, the Chief Justice said, entailed that the Constitutional Court would now consist of the Chief Justice, his deputy and five other judges, in line with the dictates of the supreme law of the country.
Before the separation, the Supreme Court was made up of the Chief Justice, his deputy and 13 other judges, who doubled as Constitutional Court judges.
Chief Justice Malaba said given the new order it had become necessary to increase the number of judges in the Supreme Court.
The Chief Justice also underscored the point that Zimbabwe is a constitutional democracy hence every law is subordinate to the Constitution and should be consistent with Constitution.
To this end, he said, it was critical and non-negotiable that all existing laws be aligned to the Constitution.
Chief Justice Malaba also said the Constitutional Court had wide powers to develop its own constitutional jurisprudence hence it was expected to guarantee a high standard of judicial reasoning.
In this regard, he said, continuity of the court’s jurisprudence was of great importance.
“The Constitutional Court is the living symbol of the Constitution. It is a living symbol of a law destined to endure for many decades to come,” said the Chief Justice.
This, he added, means that the Constitutional Court has to transcend and act above and beyond the changes occurring in the political arena.
“As the final authority that gives meaning to the constitutional norms and values of a nation, the Constitutional Court is the basis upon which the foundational values of constitutionalism must be developed and protected,” he said.
Prosecutor-General Mr Kumbirai Hodzi welcomed the new development saying the court which came into separate existence yesterday was important to keep the prosecution in check and ensure the principle of legality was complied with.
“We are cognisant of the fact that the Constitutional Court will call us back to line if we abuse the power that has been reposed in us,” he said.
Mr Hodzi added that the court should inspire public confidence and vindicate the expectations of those who look up to it to establish the truth and dispense justice.
Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, Attorney-General Advocate Prince Machaya, Law Society of Zimbabwe president Mr Thandaza Masiye-Moyo and the director of the Africa Regional Programme of the International Commission of Jurists, Mr Arnold Tsunga, attended the ceremony held at Mashonganyika Building and congratulated the Chief Justice for making the separation of the courts a success.