Walter Mswazie, Masvingo Correspondent
Chief Justice Luke Malaba has reaffirmed that the country’s judiciary is independent and everyone including the executive is answerable to the rule of law.
He made the remarks while delivering the inaugural public lecture at the Great Zimbabwe University (GZU)’s Herbert Chitepo Law School in Masvingo yesterday.
The theme of the lecture was “ Superior Courts and The Consolidation of The Rule Of Law”
The chief justice hailed GZU and its Vice Chancellor, Professor Rungano Zvobgo for establishing a law school and naming it after a luminary, the late first black lawyer and national hero, Herbert Chitepo.
Justice Malaba urged practicing lawyers to emulate the late legal icon to achieve a society based not on exploitation but on equality.
He said the judiciary must not be a “prisoner of influences in the execution of its duties. It must be immune to external pressures and influences.”
The chief justice said the crafting of the new constitution in 2013 was a giant step towards safeguarding a truly independent judiciary by strengthening both institutional and individual independence.
“In its classical formulation, the rule of law entails that every citizen and every institution is subject to the law,” said Chief Justice Malaba.
“This includes the courts, the executive and the lawmakers. In simpler terms, it is characteristic of a democratic society that those to whom the power of governing is entrusted can only act under and within the authority of the law.”
He said the rule of law is the guiding principle under which the country was founded.
“It follows therefore that no one should be above the law, regardless of their political, economic and social standing. This also means that the law should be applied uniformly and equally to all,” said the chief justice.
He also said the law was cognisant of the clear separation of powers between the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary.
“Such independence is crucial to the impartial application of the law and a cornerstone of the rule of law. In this regard, the courts are the machinery for the attainment and consolidation of the rule of law in the country,” said justice Malaba.
Government, he said, should ensure that laws are published and open to all who wish to read them. “This also connotes that court procedures must not be complex to the extent of causing any hindrance. The courts are the cornerstone of the constitutional democracy and the protection of the rule of law in the same manner that
Parliament is the hallmark of representative government. The courts, in particular the Constitutional Court, are subject only to the law,” he said.
Justice Malaba said the courts must also take into consideration relevant historical, economic, social, cultural and political contexts and interpret the Constitution in a manner that advances the rule of law and contributes to good governance.
He said the Constitutional Court has made decisions that have had far-reaching impact on the rights of persons.
Turning to legal practitioners, Chief Justice Malaba said they were inseparable with the judiciary in the matrix of upholding the rule of law.
“The courts are the vanguard of the troops striving to uphold the rule of law and legal practitioners are similarly indispensable foot soldiers in the crusade,” he said.
The Herbert Chitepo Law School opened its doors in 2014 and its first graduates are expected to be capped early next month by the university’s Chancellor President Mnangagwa.
Present at the lecture were the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation permanent secretary Dr Thokozile Chitepo who is also the late national hero’s daughter, GZU pro-vice chancellor, Dr Andrew Chindanya, Masvingo High Court Judge Justice Garainesu Mawadze, Masvingo High Court registrar, Mrs Renika Dzikiti, Judicial Service Commission (JSC) secretary, Mr Walter Chikwanha and Herbert Chitepo Law School dean Mr Victor Nkiwane, among others.