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THE death of Justice Wilson Sandura on Wednesday last week robbed Zimbabwe of a fine gentleman who served his country with distinction.

Born in 1941 in the farming village of Shamva, in the dusty bowels of Mazowe valley, Sandura represented a rare breed of blacks who defied the odds in order to be counted. Just like some of us who are not born frees, he was born under a ruthless colonial regime that cared less about blacks. Regardless, he soldiered on in life, developing himself into a towering giant in the legal profession.

Along the way, he inspired those of my generation and others who came afterwards to acquire an education use it as an instrument to break free from the chains of poverty and impact society in a positive manner.

Most of us, we found it easy to identify with the likes of Wilson because of their upbringing which we could easily relate to. His quest for education led him to pursue some of his studies far away from his motherland in the United States and Britain.

He was 48 years old when he took up possibly his biggest assignment. This was the time when he chaired what became known as the Sandura Commission, which ranks as Zimbabwe’s first serious effort to tackle high level corruption.

Several ministers had to be fired from government by President Robert Mugabe after it was proved that they had abused their positions in order to enrich themselves. Maurice Nyagumbo — a veteran of the liberation struggle — could not stomach the embarrassment that came with the exposure of what was dubbed the Willowgate Scandal opting to take his own life.

Nyagumbo was one of those named in the scam involving the sale of vehicles bought at controlled prices from Willowvale Mazda Motor Industries at inflated prices.

Sandura’s exceptional work at the commission gave the generality of the populace an opportunity to come up close with the man who earned his stripes by virtue of being fearless, forthright, incorruptible, and producing some of the best judgments on record.

Not one to go with the flow for the sake of it, as exemplified by some of his dissenting judgments, Sandura stood by his beliefs, which beliefs were rooted in profound understanding of the law.

Justice Luke Malaba summed it up perfectly when, upon Sandura’s retirement from the Supreme Court, he described him as an “analytical mind, conscious of the duty to do justice to all manner of man without fear or favour.”

Indeed, he personified all the qualities of a good judge: intelligent, ethical, courageous, experienced, professional, hard working, educated, brilliant communicator and having integrity as well as sound judicial temperament.

It was therefore befitting that, among his many accolades, he was awarded the Walter Kamba Rule of Law Award by the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) in 2009, for upholding the celebrated professional values of the late Walter Kamba – a law professor and scholar credited for transforming the University of Rhodesia into the University of Zimbabwe.

“He stands for what we all believe are values at par with Walter Kamba’s. He is a lone voice many times,” remarked Beatrice Mtetwa, the LSZ president at the time.

It was Sandura’s commitment to the speedy delivery of justice that also informed the decision to introduce pre-trial conferences in 1995 to speed up civil litigation and reduce backlogs and costs. There is no denying that the backlog swamping the courts could have been much worse if it were not for this initiative.

He also had abundant love and compassion to those he worked with. He would bemoan the brain drain and loss of skilled personnel to so-called “greener pastures” due to poor remuneration and working conditions in the civil service.

“It lowers a judicial officer’s dignity or social esteem to live as a lodger in any residence, to travel to and from the court house by means of an emergence taxi,” I remember him remarking something to that effect when he was still Judge President. Still he would demand results from those below him while leading by example.

He was a staunch aocate for the aancement of education, and wished to see all those in the justice delivery chain broadening their knowledge in order to enhance the quality of their work.

His was an illustrious career.

He attained his education in Zimbabwe, the US and the United Kingdom.

He was admitted as an aocate in 1972 and in 1980 became the first black regional magistrate.

After a posting as the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs’ permanent secretary, he was appointed a High Court judge in January 1983 and became the first Judge President of the High Court, after the Supreme Court and the High Court were split in May 1984.

During his time on the bench, he chaired the Delimitation Commission for all general and presidential elections with voters grouped in constituencies, those of 1985, 1990, and 1995.

He served on the Supreme Court since 1998. He was a High Court judge between 1983 and 1997, and was judge president from 1984.

He also served on the Judiciary Services Commission.

He retired in 2011, at the age of 70, ending an illustrious career spanning 28 years.

He was 74 at the time of his death.

Sandura will be remembered as one of the judges who served their country with a constant mind and without pandering to the whims of the mighty or wicked amongst us.

At home, he was a loving father and husband.

In fact, one of his past times at home was cooking. Very few chefs would beat him when it comes to preparing his favourite dish – fish.

While he may no longer be with us, we shall always cherish the good work that he has left behind and all his accomplishments. His legacy should guide those desirous of a just society in which all men are treated equally regardless of their gender, religion, race, tribe and creed.

Here is a man silenced by death but whose works will endure for generations to come.

Although he lies several miles away from the national shrine, Sandura is a hero of all time, who has left behind a rich legacy.

It is gratifying that his relatives and friends went out of their way to give a befitting send off to our hero marking the end of a journey to a life well lived.

Normally, attending a funeral takes a person away from the comforts of one’s home, which is one of the reasons why many refer to going to a funeral as “ndiri kuenda kunhamo”. Anyone who went to pay their last respects both at the Sandura residence in Harare and at their rural homestead in Madziva would have noticed that the funeral undertakers from Nyaradzo have taken funeral directing to a new level.

No-one who attended the funeral proceedings at both venues had to sit in the baking sun as there were more than enough tents to provide shade while sitting on comfortable chairs.

When it was time to eat, VIPs were served their food in a decorated tent.

As night fell, generators were on hand to ensure that there was an uninterrupted power supply for the lights and the public address system.

A water bowser ensured that there was a supply of potable water on hand.

Everything went flawless. Ablution facilities they supplied included modern mobile rest rooms that have a sink to wash up and running water to flush as well as lights.

To supplement these mobile rest rooms, there were portable toilets with sinks in which one could wash their hands, running water to flush and lights.

A mobile shower unit with hot and cold water and lights was also available. Who knew that you could now have a hot shower during any event in the rural areas?

Those without their own vehicles were comfortably transported from Harare to Madziva and back in semi-luxury 65-seater buses.

Indeed, a man of Sandura’s standing deserved a fitting send-off.

To Caroline, his widow, together with his children, we are with you in our prayers during this most difficult time.

Take comfort in Thessalonians 4:13-14, which reads, “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of us man who have no hope. 14. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep with him.”

Wilson may your soul rest in eternal peace.

Till we meet again!

Source : Financial Gazette