ZIMBABWEAN President Robert Mugabe, hoping to extend his 21-year rule despite discontent over the collapsing economy and alleged corruption, is likely to pursue his unprecedented war against the judiciary, media and opposition, say political analysts and legal experts.
Mugabe, who faces presidential elections within 14 months, has managed to get rid of white Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay, but – crucially – has not broken the independent spirit of Zimbabwe’s judiciary.
Gubbay’s four Supreme Court colleagues and many of the 24 High Court judges have a record of fearless and independent action and are likely to continue to measure Mugabe against the constitution and protection of human rights.
”We should be able to continue enjoying an independent judiciary if the executive stops tampering with judges,” said Lovemore Madhuku, a constitutional law lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe.
Mugabe made an uncharacteristic climbdown last week, avoiding a constitutional crisis by giving Gubbay room to leave office with some dignity through retirement.
The government backed down from a bid to kick Gubbay out in humiliating fashion, instead signing a compromise deal including the withdrawal of all allegations of bias against him.
Gubbay and Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said in a joint statement he would go on pre-retirement leave immediately and would retire 10 months early at the end of June.
For two days Gubbay, 69, had defied an order to take early retirement from March 1 while the government insisted he was retired and that it could appoint a successor.
”The government made some concessions in terms of both style and substance,” said political analyst Emmanuel Magade, a law lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe.
* Gunmen have shot and killed the mother of a farmer slain last year at the start of Mugabe’s campaign to seize white-owned farms for redistribution to blacks, a relative said. 68-year-old Gloria Olds was found shot on her farm near Bulawayo, where she lived alone.
Olds’ son, Martin, was the second of five white farmers killed last year in a land-grab sanctioned by Mugabe and headed by veterans of the former Rhodesia’s 1970s liberation war. Two more white farmers were killed in apparent robberies. – Reuters