Term Extension: Concourt Clears Chief Justice Malaba

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Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court yesterday ruled that Chief Justice Luke Malaba will now serve in line with the Constitution until his 75th birthday in May 2026. It held that the extension of Chief Justice Luke Malaba’s term of office after attaining 70 years was legal.

Justice Bharat Patel and Justice Rita Makarau ruled that Malaba has been legally in office from the time his term was extended by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in May this year.

In his application seeking to nullify the High Court ruling, Marx Mupungu of Bulawayo argued that the lower court’s judgment violated some constitutional provisions giving the president and parliament the power to extend judges’ term of office, if medically fit, for another five years after the ‘prescribed’ retirement age of 70.

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Mupungu’s attorney, Lovemore Madhuku, said the Constitutional Court ruling has granted Malaba power to work as the country’s top legal mind.

The High Court ruled in May that Malaba retired based on the country’s constitutional provisions.

Justice Jester Charewa, Justice Happias Zhou, and Justice Edith Mushore of the High Court ruled that “… The CJ (Chief Justice) ceased to hold the office as 15/15/21. Extension of the time provided for in Section 186 does not apply to CJ and any sitting but not acting Judges of the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court and there shall be no order as to costs.”

The Young Lawyers Association of Zimbabwe and a war veteran, Frederick Mutanda, a liberation war veteran, filed an urgent chamber application at the Harare High Court, seeking an order to stop Chief Justice Luke Malaba from continuing as the head of the Constitutional Court.

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Professor Lovemore Madhuku

In the application filed by Honey & Blanckenberg Legal Practitioners, who are members of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, YLAZ, and Mutanda argued that Chief Justice Malaba ought not to benefit from the term extension provisions as introduced by the amendment of the Constitution since he has served 15 years as a judge of the Constitutional Court.

Professor Lovemore Madhuku who represented Mupungu welcomed the court decision. He said the ruling settles once and for all the issues surrounding the Chief Justice matter.

“It makes it clear that there were never problems with the Chief Justice being in office, meaning that as at May 15, Chief Justice Malaba was the Chief Justice of Zimbabwe and remains so until there is a lawful vacancy in the office of Chief Justice,” he said.

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Prof Madhuku described as political the criticism of the decision to take the matter up to the Constitutional Court after the High Court had ruled.

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