Zimbabwe’s Chief Justice Luke Malaba has ordered all High Court and Labour Court judges to first submit judgments before handing them. The move has been widely condemned as it seeks to thwart judge’s independence in handing judgments and replace with predetermined outcomes.
In a letter circulated by Chief Justice Malaba’s office, the judges were given 8 directives they should follow when giving judgments.
Part of the letter read, ” Following concerns raised about the manner in which judgments are handled after being handed down it is hereby directed as follows:
i. No judgment should be handed down when it is not yet ready to be distributed
ii. Once a judgment is handed down it shall not be withdrawn for any reason. Handing down of a judgment is evidence that the judgment is ready for access by the parties and members of the public.
iii. All judgments handed down must be immediately accessible to the Registrars. litigants and the public.
iv. Before a judgment or an order of the High Court or Labour Court is issued or handed down, it should be seen and approved by the head of court or division.
v. The practice of issuing orders with the undertaking that reasons will follow is to be desisted from forthwith. Only the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court can issue such orders as they are courts with final jurisdiction. The only exception is when a Judge will be dealing with a point in limine. Such an order will be appropriate as it enables the court to expeditiously finalise the main matter.
vi. For the avoidance of doubt, it is proper for a Judge when dealing with a point in limine to give an order and advise that the reasons will be stated in the main judgment.
vii. Where a Judge decides to issue an order in an ex tempore judgment, he or she must ensure that the reasons given are comprehensive on the understanding that they will be accessible to the parties, the Registrar and members of the public.
3. All heads of courts are advised to bring this information to the attention of all Judges. ”