HARARE – Luke Malaba was yesterday sworn in as Zimbabwe’s Chief Justice by President Robert Mugabe, succeeding retired Godfrey Chidyausiku.
Chidyausiku stepped down after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70.
In his acceptance speech, the 65-year-old revered judge pledged to ensure independence of the judiciary.
“I see my task as being to uphold the law, act in terms of the Constitution as set out for us as a court,” he said.
“I look forward to a term of office, which to many, may appear very short but to me, it’s sufficient for anybody who has a clear vision to execute his or her vision,” Malaba said, adding that “my vision at the moment is that I would want to see a judiciary that functions according to the purposes for which it is established, as a third organ of the State”.
He said “it’s not just enough to talk about upholding the independence of the judiciary when that independence is not used properly”.
“Independence means responsibility. It is only when the Judiciary itself accepts that it’s not independent in order not to work, it will be able to gain the confidence of the people.
“Without confidence of the public, you don’t talk about the administration of justice. And the confidence of the public means doing what you are supposed to do timeously.”
Attention will now shift to Mugabe’s imminent announcement of a replacement for deputy chief, a pick which could prove more controversial, as the incumbent is viewed as a crucial swing vote on the court.
Mugabe said Malaba’s swearing-in was in line with provisions of the Constitution.
Malaba beat three other candidates public interviews — beamed live on State television — who had been shortlisted by the Judicial Service Commission for the chief justice post.
The chief justice-designate scored 92 percent in the interviews, while Rita Makarau garnered 90 percent and Justice Paddington Garwe came out third with 52 percent.
Malaba has law degrees from the University of Warwick in the UK, obtained in 1974 and another one from the University of Zimbabwe, obtained in 1982.
He was registered as a legal practitioner in Zimbabwe on April 14, 1986. Apart from an initial three years as a prosecutor in Bulawayo between 1981 to 1984, justice Malaba is a career judicial officer, whose magisterial career started at Masvingo in 1984.
He rose steadily through the ranks of the magistracy and attained the rank of regional magistrate in 1990.
He was appointed a judge of the High Court in 1994. He was promoted to the Supreme Court in July 2001 and became the country’s first deputy chief justice in July 2008.
Malaba has also held an appointment as a judge of the regional trade bloc Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) Court of Justice.
He has been described as a judge of integrity, deep humility, and uncommon talent with a reputation as a brilliant and fair-minded jurist.