Thandeka Moyo Court Reporter—
SENIOR Bulawayo High Court Judge Justice Andrew Mutema collapsed and died yesterday at Mater Dei Hospital in the city, the Judicial Service Commission confirmed. He was 56. Details of the judge’s death were still sketchy last night but sources said he collapsed and died at the Roman Catholic church-run institution yesterday afternoon.
It could not be established last night if the judge had been admitted to the hospital.
JSC secretary Justice Rita Makarau said: “It’s with sadness that I confirm Justice Mutema’s death.”
She said Justice Mutema joined the Ministry of Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs in 1986 as an Assistant Magistrate.
He was appointed a magistrate in 1987 and a regional magistrate in September 1997.
“On 3 November 2004 he was appointed to the post of Senior President of the Administrative Court.
“He was later moved to the Labour Court on 14 December 2007 where he was appointed to the post of Senior President of the Labour Court,” said Justice Makarau.
“On the 20th of May 2010 he was appointed Judge of the High Court in Harare. On the 1st of February 2013, he was appointed to the position of Senior Judge in charge of the High Court, Bulawayo.”
In March this year, he was appointed a Principal Judge in the First Division of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
Justice Makarau said Justice Mutema is survived by four children – two boys and two girls and mourners are gathered at Number 3 Dowding Road, Kumalo North in Bulawayo.
Justice Mutema joined the Bulawayo High Court from the Harare High Court to replace Justice Nicholas Ndou, who resigned on December, 31, 2012 after sitting on the bench for 11 years.
Bulawayo lawyers mourned the passing on of the judge yesterday.
The vice president of the Bulawayo Legal Practitioners Association, Robert Ndlovu, described the late judge as a father figure in the legal fraternity.
“We wish to pass our condolences to family, friends and the whole legal fraternity on the passing on of Justice Mutema.
“He was a welcoming father figure in the fraternity who was concerned with the general practice,” said Ndlovu.
“We’ve lost a judge, an advisor who accommodated even junior lawyers and was ready to address our concerns.”
At the time of his death, the judge was seeing out his assignment as an electoral court judge after he was assigned as one of the four judges to preside over possible electoral disputes for six months between February and August this year.
During his practice as a judge in Bulawayo, one of Justice Mutema’s better known verdicts was a ruling passed in March this year in which he said the police practice of impounding vehicles at roadblocks for failure to pay spot fines by motorists was unlawful.
He then ordered police to release a car they seized from former Lupane West MP Njabuliso Mguni who had failed to pay a $50 spot fine.
Justice Mutema also presided over the case of Kelvin Sibanda who killed his sex cheat athlete half-brother, Samukeliso Sithole, during a fight over a wardrobe last year.
Sibanda was sentenced to three years in prison after Justice Mutema convicted him of a lesser charge of culpable homicide.