Justice Bere probe nears end

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The Herald

Fidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter
THE tribunal probing suspended Supreme Court Judge Justice Francis Bere’s suitability to hold office is expected to conclude its investigations this week at a time when the judge has approached the High Court with a fresh application challenging the lifespan of the tribunal.

Justice Bere is arguing that the lifespan of the tribunal set up by President Mnangagwa in March this year to probe his alleged misconduct, ended on July 10 and now asks for all proceedings that ensued after that date to be nullified.

However, the investigations are winding up in the absence the judge and his legal team after they walked out of the proceedings, protesting the tribunal’s refusal to have one of its members, Advocate Takawira Nzombe, recuse himself because of his alleged links to Harare lawyer Mr Itayi Ndudzo, a crucial witness in the inquiry.

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Permanent Secretary Mrs Virginia Mabhiza yesterday confirmed the investigations were almost complete.

“We are winding up this week and preparing a report for His Excellency (President Mnangagwa),” she said.

Mrs Mabhiza said Justice Bere’s fresh court application was a ploy to avoid the hearing saying after walking out on the tribunal, he has now filed an ordinary application.

In the application filed at the High Court on Friday, Justice Bere argues that the tribunal being chaired by Retired judge, Justice Simbi Mubako, was sworn into office on March 10 and its four-month mandate lapsed on July 10.

He argues its purposes automatically ended by operation of law and there would no longer be an enquiry.

However, the tribunal ruled that the four months was an error and relied on the corrected legal instrument in General Notice 2090 of 2020, which Justice Bere in his application, disagreed with saying the lifespan of four months was incapable of correction and not subject to notices of correction.

“I have clear rights which are being flouted and trampled upon by the respondents and there is no other remedy available to me, hence this application and order has been filed and is sought to protect myself,” stated Justice Bere in his papers.

He said his latest application was necessary to avoid the perpetuation of the “perverse conduct of the respondents and self-fulfilling actions”.

“I have a legal right not to be subjected to any proceedings that are not in terms of the law,” said Justice Bere.

The judge and his legal team walked out on the inquiry protesting over the rejection of a request to have Adv Nzombe recuse himself from the matter because of he was allegedly compromised.

The lawyers were also not content with a further six months’ extension of the tribunal, following the expiry of the given four months.

Lead defence counsel Advocate Firoz Girach, Advocate Lewis Uriri and Prof Lovemore Madhuku walked out of the hearing protesting over what they claimed to be a “violation of legal procedure”.

President Mnangagwa set up the tribunal inquiry into the fitness of the Supreme Court judge to hold office after a lawyer accused him of interference in a civil case involving the Zimbabwe National Road Administration and his relatives.

Justice Bere allegedly telephoned Mr Ndudzo, who was representing Zinara, asking him to consider settling a civil dispute pitting Zinara against Fremus Enterprises.

Justice Bere was serving on both the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court benches when he was suspended in March this year.

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