Home » Judicial » Lazy Judges – Chidyausiku Gets Thumbs Up

Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku’s openness and constructive criticism of lazy judges has received glowing reviews with lawyers and the public urging him to descend heavily on his subordinates for delaying and denying justice to the ordinary person.

Rebellion in defence of incompetence, the people said, should never be entertained.

Courts, the analysts said, exist to administer justice to the ordinary person who is the biggest loser whenever judgments are delayed as lawyers — who charge by the hour — and judges who draw their salaries as normal will be laughing all the way to the bank.

The reactions come after the Chief Justice made a public reprimand of judges of the High Court for languor, when he officially opened the 2015 Legal Year, last month.

Click to see Editorial comment

However, his criticism drew the ire of 21 out of the 24 judges of the High Court, who last week accused the Chief Justice of being out of touch with modern trends in the justice delivery system.

Legal experts who spoke to The Herald yesterday defended the Chief Justice, saying the public reprimand of the lazy judges was proper if Zimbabwe is to maintain public confidence in the Judiciary.

Harare lawyer Mr Tendai Toto said the Chief Justice was the ultimate authority for the Judiciary and every judicial officer should be aware of that.

“The Chief Justice’s functions and role in the justice delivery system is Constitutionally pronounced. He cannot fully account to the nation if he is unable to inform the nation on the state of our justice delivery system and the performance of his team,” said Mr Toto.

“The censure on the so-called lazy judges is part of the accounting process. He is the CEO of the judiciary and as such if a CEO demands performance from his judiciary team, I find nothing wrong with that.”

Mr Toto said the Chief Justice was cautious not to publicise the names of the lazy and under-performing judges so that the public retains confidence in the judiciary and the justice delivery system.

“Where certain judges believe that the evaluation process may have had certain results that were inaccurate due to various factors which may include inadequate tools of trade, I am sure there is a better platform to make responsible representations than going public with such a communal response in the press,” he said.

He added: “This act unnecessarily strains relations between the CEO and his subordinates prompting undesirable professional relationships and perhaps backlash. In the overall, what the Chief Justice did was within his authority in terms of the constitution and I see no excitement by the Chief Justice in calling a spade a spade.”

Another lawyer Mr Terence Hussein said the Chief Justice’s move to expose the underperformers and hail performers is justified and was expected of any organisation which was accountable to the public.

“Efficiency is key in improving the justice delivery system, so the CJ’s move is commendable. If the judges do their work as demanded by the CJ, we will not see courts taking ages to make judgements,” said Mr Hussein.

“Those judges complaining must be reminded that justice delayed is justice denied.”

Mr Jack Mtumbuka, an auditor with a firm in Harare, said as a litigant, one felt the full extent of the injustice that came with delayed judgments.

“Justice delayed is justice denied,” said Mr Mtumbuka. “The anxiety arising out of one’s desire to see the end of a pending court case, the legal fees charged by your lawyer, and the general expenses extended on prosecuting the case, all add up towards the punishment that one suffers as a result of the laziness of judges and inefficient delivery system.”

Ms Agnes Munambo who stays in Ruwa welcomed the condemnation of the lazy judges saying the reprimand was long overdue.

“Quite a significant number of judges were taking unduly long (time) to hand down judgments,” she said.

“The delay obviously undermines the public’s confidence in the justice delivery system.”

She added that the Chief Justice should be applauded for whipping errant judges back into line.

“Actually some of us were beginning to believe that the CJ was himself sleeping on duty as not to notice gross dereliction of duty by his subordinates,” she said, adding that “the Chief Justice should not be bullied from his principled stance.”

Mr Dobson Majaira, who runs a consultancy firm in Milton Park said: “It is very discouraging. You just don’t know whether your case will be one of those cases, which will be handled by a judge who handles two cases in one year. You totally lose faith in the judiciary.”

Tinei Mazanhi, a law student in South Africa, said rapped the judges for not taking the CJ’s censure as a call to action.

“The Chief Justice should keep cracking the whip because we should never tolerate a rebellion in defence of incompetence.”

A commentator on the Herald website only identified as Gutu, also hailed Chief Justice Chidyausiku for taking the rare but bold step to censure his subordinates in public.

He said the under-performers and those singled out for high praise, work under the same environment, thus there was no excuse for laziness.

“Here we have the same environment where some perform extremely well above others and that ill-performance should not be condoned in all material respects,” said Gutu.

“Those who performed still fall under the same leader. I think Godfrey (Justice Chidyausiku) is correct here. Action thereafter now depends on the leader. Just like in football, the second half is specifically for the coach.”

Another reader Gunguwo said: “Many thanks Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku. This is a first and we call this public service management, fully backed with statistics.

“It is such indicators that must be used for remuneration, promotion and terminal benefits. Let the hard workers be rewarded and those who don’t be left out.

“It is now clear-cut for this ministry and we hope to see performance-based remuneration, starting here. Let’s hear such detailed reports from other ministries. This is good.”

A city resident Mr Jameson Njongore said: “It is good when your boss praises you in public for good performance. I say well done to both Justice Nicholas Mathonsi and Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku.

Another reader who goes by the pen name Progressive Zimbabwean, took the opportunity to attack the Labour Court for alleged fraud and corruption.

“The Labour Court is a major problem for the judiciary. Some judgments are clearly fraudulent especially those involving unfair dismissal by employers and would make the Supreme Court judges laugh their lungs out.

“It is therefore clear that some judgments are a result of some inducement from influential and deep pocketed employers. Meanwhile, poor hapless employees languish in poverty.”

The Chief Justice, he said, should sample all cases that have not been finalised within two years and carry out an audit of the processes and reasoning of the judgments.

“It would be interesting what he will find,” he said.

Another reader Onix Sibanda said, “There can be subordinates making his downfall by not doing work. It’s true so much (many) cases are taking long to judge giving room for more corruption. Those lazy ones must be reprimanded very gly.”

In a statement last week Chief Chidyausiku threatened under-performing High Court judges with expulsion if they did not improve following the judges’ attack on him.

Judicial Service Commission secretary Justice Rita Makarau, responded on behalf of Chief Justice Chidyausiku.

She said the judges who underperformed in the 2014 legal year would be summoned to explain their failure to deliver to expectation. The judges wrote a memorandum dated January 28 responsing to the Justice Chidyausiku’s censure while accusing their boss of being out of touch with modern trends.

The judiciary boss said he stood by his speech and that his observations were meant to improve the justice delivery system. Officially opening the 2015 Legal Year last month, Chief Justice Chiyausiku criticised most High Court judges for underperformance and said the majority were lazy.

So bad was the situation, he said, that one of the judges had only managed to complete two cases the whole year. But the judges reacted with anger, saying most of the contents of Chief Justice Chidyausiku’s speech were delivered in bad faith.

Only three judges – Justices Nicholas Mathonsi, Susan Mavangira and Priscilla Chigumba, who were singled out for praise by Chief Justice Chidyausiku – did not sign the letter, written to Judge President Justice George Chiweshe, the head of the High Court, for onward transmission to the Chief Justice.

The Harare judges wanted Chief Justice Chidyausiku to correct “the wrong impression created” and repair the damage inflicted on their reputation and dignity by placing all relevant information in the public domain.

They also wanted the Chief Justice to come up with an objective, fair and just appraisal system for all judges in respect of their judicial, quasi-judicial and non-judicial functions.

Source : The Herald