Chidyausiku warns media. . .dissuades public comments on matters before the courts

Chief Justice  Chidyausiku

Chief Justice Chidyausiku

Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Court Reporter—
Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku has warned all people to refrain from publicly commenting on matters under consideration by the courts, saying the move was in violation of the sub-judice rule. In a statement read on his behalf by the Chief Registrar of Superior Courts Mr Munamato Mutevedzi at a Press conference yesterday, Chief Justice Chidyausiku said although the law allowed reports on court cases of public interest, such reports or comments should not seek to interfere with the administration of justice.

“The Chief Justice calls upon all to refrain from publicly commenting on matters under consideration by the courts in violation of the sub-judice rule,” said Chief Justice Chidyausiku.

He said the courts will not be swayed by the comments and that all the pending cases will be dealt with in terms of the law.

“Notwithstanding the comments and reports on pending matters, the Chief Justice reassures all that matters before the courts are and will be determined in accordance with nothing other than the law,” he said.

The head of the Judiciary said he issued the statement in response to comments carried in the public media regarding pending court cases.

“The Chief Justice notes with concern the proliferation in the public media of inappropriate comments on matters pending before the courts, contrary to the time honoured and internationally accepted practice of refraining from publicly commenting on matters that are sub-judice,” he said.

“However, such reports and comments must not seek to, or be perceived as seeking to prejudice, influence or interfere with the due administration of justice or fair trials of the matters reported on.”

The media has been awash with reports and comments on the pending court case in which former Zanu-PF secretary for Administration Mr Didymus Mutasa and former spokesperson Mr Rugare Gumbo were seeking to nullify the December 2014 party’s congress and its outcome.

Addressing thousands of people gathered at Chinyika Ranch Ward 2 in Chirumanzu-Zibagwe Constituency to witness a ground-breaking technology, the exothermic (Alluminathemic) demonstration by African Chrome Field, President Mugabe last week reportedly said it would be interference with Zanu-PF’s internal matters if the Judiciary entertained the court challenge by Messrs Mutasa and Gumbo.

Some sections of the private media then accused the President of threatening judges.

They claimed Mr Mutasa was now unlikely to get a fair court hearing following the President’s comments.

Constitutional lawyer Mr Alex Magaisa and University of Zimbabwe lecturer Professor Lovemore Madhuku also talked about the case, with Prof Madhuku being quoted as calling on Chief Justice Chidyausiku to issue a statement demanding that the Executive stops interfering with the Judiciary.

But Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo said the lawyers were misdirecting themselves in twisting the President’s statement.

Prof Moyo said President Mugabe was entitled to this legal defence, and was within his rights to challenge the court’s jurisdiction as a respondent in the matter.

He said it was entirely up to the court, which would hear the case, to determine whether or not it had the jurisdiction that had been wrongly presumed by Messrs Mutasa and Gumbo.