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Cablegate: President Mugabe Appoints Three Additional Supreme

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

081223Z Aug 01


UNCLASSIFIED PTO5054

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------------------0F4DBB 081245Z /38
FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 9423
INFO NSC WASHDC
SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
AMEMBASSY NAIROBI

UNCLAS HARARE 002345

SIPDIS

NSC FOR JENDAYI FRAZER
LONDON FOR GURNEY
PARIS FOR BISA WILLIAMS
NAIROBI FOR PFLAUMER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINR ZI
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT MUGABE APPOINTS THREE ADDITIONAL SUPREME
COURT JUDGES


UNCLASSIFIED

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1. PRESIDENT MUGABE HAS APPOINTED THREE ADDITIONAL
SUPREME COURT JUDGES, BRINGING THE TOTAL NUMBER OF JUSTICES
ON THE COUNTRY'S HIGHEST COURT TO EIGHT. MINISTER OF
JUSTICE PATRICK CHINAMASA ANNOUNCED THAT THE NEW
APPOINTMENTS WERE MADE IN PREPARATION FOR AN EXPECTED
INCREASE IN WORKLOAD. THE ADDITIONAL WORKLOAD, HE SAID,
WOULD RESULT FROM APPEALS FROM A NEWLY-CREATED LABOR
TRIBUNAL AND FROM AN EXPANDED ADMINISTRATIVE COURT, WHICH
IS HEARING CHALLENGES FROM FARMERS WHOSE PROPERTIES HAVE
BEEN LISTED FOR COMPULSORY ACQUISITION UNDER THE FAST-TRACK
RESETTLEMENT PROGRAM. PRIOR TO THEIR SWEARING-IN ON AUGUST
2, THE THREE NEWCOMERS -- MISHECK CHEDA AND LUKE MALABA
FROM THE BULAWAYO HIGH COURT AND VERNANDA ZIYAMBI FROM THE
HARARE HIGH COURT -- ALL PRESIDED AS SENIOR JUDGES.

2. THE NEW APPOINTMENTS HAVE RAISED EYEBROWS AMONG SOME
MEMBERS OF THE LEGAL COMMUNITY, WHO BELIEVE THE PRESIDENT
IS TRYING TO PACK THE COURT WITH HIS SUPPORTERS. EILEEN
SAWYER, DIRECTOR OF THE LEGAL RESOURCES FOUNDATION, TOLD US
THAT THERE WAS NO REASON TO APPOINT ADDITIONAL JUDGES, AS
THE CURRENT MEMBERS OF THE BENCH WERE NOT PARTICULARLY
BUSY. LAW SOCIETY PRESIDENT STERNFORD MOYO, HOWEVER,
MAINTAINED THAT THE NEW MEMBERS OF THE BENCH COULD NOT BE
CONSIDERED STOOGES OF ZANU-PF. HE DESCRIBED JUSTICE CHEDA
AS A "SOUND JUDGE" WHO RENDERS JUDGMENTS BASED ON HIS
READING OF THE LAW, NOT POLITICAL AFFILIATION. MOYO CITED
AS AN EXAMPLE CHEDA'S PUBLIC CRITICISM OF FORMER HIGH COURT
JUDGE PRESIDENT, AND CURRENT ACTING CHIEF JUSTICE, GODFREY
CHIDYAUSIKU FOR ISSUING A PRO-GOVERNMENT RULING ON THE FAST-
TRACK RESETTLEMENT EFFORT WHICH CONTRADICTED A PREVIOUS
SUPREME COURT DECISION. CHEDA CALLED CHIDYAUSIKU'S RULING
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PAGE 03 HARARE 02345 081245Z
"ERRONEOUS." MOYOOYO DESCRIBED JUSTICE MALABA AS A "SOUND
AND CAPABLE LAWYER, PERHAPS ONE OF THE MOST ABLE IN
MATABELELAND", AND SAID HE HAS A STRONG HUMAN RIGHTS
BACKGROUND. ALTHOUGH SOME OBSERVERS BELIEVE THAT ZIYAMBI
DOES NOT POSSESS THE SAME CALIBER OF LEGAL MIND AS HER TWO
COUNTERPARTS AND ARE SUSPICIOUS OF HER CONNECTIONS TO ZANU-
PF (HER HUSBAND WAS MINISTER OF JUSTICE WHEN HE DIED IN A
CAR ACCIDENT ABOUT TEN YEARS AGO), MOYO THOUGHT HER STRONG
RELIGIOUS CONVICTIONS WOULD PLAY A MORE IMPORTANT ROLE IN
GUIDING HER DECISIONS THAN ANY POLITICAL SYMPATHIES.
(COMMENT: WE UNDERSTAND FROM OTHER SOURCES THAT MANY OF
ZIYAMBI'S RELATIVES, INCLUDING HER CHILDREN, BLAME ZANU-PF
FOR STAGING THE ACCIDENT IN WHICH HER HUSBAND DIED,
ALTHOUGH ZIYAMBI'S OWN THOUGHTS ON THIS ISSUE ARE NOT
CLEAR. END COMMENT.) MOYO NOTED THAT ZIYAMBI IS THE FIRST
WOMAN APPOINTED TO THE SUPREME COURT.

5.
COMMENT
-------

3. 3.MANY OBSERVERS HAVE BEEN EXPECTING PRESIDENT MUGABE
TO PACK THE COURT FOR SOME TIME TO DILUTE THE INFLUENCE OF
THE REMAINING JUSTICES, TWO OF WHOM ARE NOT BLACK. THE
CONSTITUTION OF ZIMBABWE PERMITS THE PRESIDENT TO APPOINT
AS MANY JUSTICES AS HE SEES FIT; IT ESTABLISHES ONLY A
MINIMUM NUMBER OF JUDGES (FIVE) THAT MUST OCCUPY THE BENCH.
.
GIVEN THE STRONG INDEPENDENT BACKGROUNDS OF TWO OF THE
THREE NEW APPOINTMENTS, IT IS UNLIKELY THAT THE GOZ CAN
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 04 HARARE 02345 081245Z
COUNT ON THEM TO AUTOMATICALLY DO ITS BIDDING. MORE
LIKELY, THE PRESIDENT IS PROBABLY LOOKING FOR A SUPREME
COURT THAT IS "BLACKER," AND IN HIS CALCULATION, MORE
SYMPATHETIC TO THE RULING PARTY. HOWEVER, MUGABE STILL
WANTS A COURT THAT IS RESPECTABLE AND NOT BLATANTLY
PARTISAN BECAUSE HE VALUES A COURT THAT CAN PUT A CREDIBLE
STAMP OF LEGALITY ON HIS LAND SEIZURE PROGRAM AND OTHER
LAWS RESTRICTING POLITICAL FREEDOM. WE NOTE THAT GODFREY
CHIDYAUSIKU HAS NOT YET BEEN SWORN IN AS CHIEF JUSTICE; HE
HAS BEEN ACTING CHIEF JUSTICE FOR MORE THAN A MONTH. HE
HAS COME UNDER WIDESPREAD CRITICISM FROM THE LEGAL
COMMUNITY, AND THE GOVERNMENT MAY BE RETHINKING HIS
PERMANENT APPOINTMENT. END COMMENT.

HOOKS

UNCLASSIFIED

>

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