Let’s uphold Constitutionalism: Chief Justice

Every Zimbabwean has an important role to play in the promotion of constitutionalism in the country with the Judiciary relying on cooperation of all citizens to fulfil its role of being guardian of the Constitution, Chief Justice Luke Malaba has said.

He said this during the official opening of the 2024 Legal Year at the Constitutional Court in Harare yesterday.

The event was held under the theme: “The role of the judiciary in entrenching constitutionalism.”

“Everyone has a role to play in the entrenchment of constitutionalism by obeying the express commands of the Constitution. The pursuit of constitutionalism is a call on all people to seek to always conform to the constitutional order.

“Only then can the nation continue to enjoy the unity, peace, economic development and achieve the social justice it deserves. The Judiciary relies on the cooperation of all stakeholders to effectively fulfil its role as the guardian of the Constitution.

“The attainment of a democratic society that is based on openness, fairness, equality, freedom and justice depends largely on the willingness of both State and private actors to appreciate the goodness and bindingness of these foundational values and principles demanding action according to them. There must be awareness of the mutual benefit of abiding by constitutionalism,” he said.

In a wide-ranging speech, the Chief Justice touched on various subjects that include a summary of the Judiciary activities in 2023 and those planned for 2024 and said the judiciary was a vital cog in the maintenance and observance of constitutionalism.

“A decade has passed since the promulgation of the transformative Constitution. It must have come of age. Zimbabwe is a constitutional democracy. The implication is that governance is premised on laws, rules, conduct and policies which are all subservient to the Constitution.

“The Judiciary plays a critical role in that regard. It safeguards the principles and the values of the Constitution, including ensuring that the State and all its agencies act in strict compliance with and in conformity to the Constitution. The Judicial Service Commission found it befitting and proper that the Judiciary takes the lead in celebrating the 10 years of existence of the Constitution,” he said.

The Chief Justice said constitutionalism was distinguished by respect for the principles of limited government, the rule of law, the separation of powers, democracy, and the protection of individual rights and freedoms adding that these foundational values and principles were necessary to preserve a just and democratic society that is based on openness where people’’s rights are protected and the Government is answerable to the people.

He said the Constitution was the bedrock of constitutionalism and imposed objectives and standards by which the operations and conduct of the Executive, the Legislature, the Judiciary and the other agencies of the State were measured.

“The Judiciary shoulders the duty, at individual and institutional level, to act in the manner that is prescribed by the values and principles embodying the standard of the conduct prescribed by the Constitution. Its conduct must resonate with the vision and aspirations of the people grounded in the framework of the Constitution,” Chief Justice Malaba said.

He said the Constitution was a living document, whose significance extends beyond mere ideals captured in the text adding that constitutionalism was a living objective and culture by which the people will always measure their conduct as a group.

“The duty to interpret the law that is imposed on the Judiciary and the public offices of justice developed for this purpose are a reflection of the commanding nature of the Constitution. This is because the Constitution not only creates the duty and the offices but also prescribes the manner and timing of exercising the powers that it gives. It also prescribes the remedies for failure to act constitutionally,” he said.

Chief Justice Malaba said that understanding was consistent with the founding values and principles contained in Section 3 of the Constitution that denotes that Zimbabwe is founded on respect for the supremacy of the law, the rule of law, fundamental human rights, and the nation’s diverse cultural values.

He said the obligations imposed by the Constitution were binding on every person, natural or juristic, including the State and all executive, legislative and judicial institutions and agencies of government at every level, and must be fulfilled by them.

Meanwhile, members of the legal fraternity welcomed the Chief Justice’s statement especially on adhering and promoting constitutionalism.

National Prosecuting Authority’s Prosecutor General, Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo said it was important for all the arms of the State to uphold constitutionalism.

“Well obviously, we have been quite impressed by the opening remarks by the Chief Justice. The takeaways are that although all our organisations are independent but that should never be taken as isolative independence but should be collaborative independence where we work together to achieve justice at the end of the day.

“So we are looking  forward to a greater 2024 year especially with the theme of entrenching constitutionalism as the national prosecuting authority we have taken cue of the delivering word by the Chief Justice and we are going to make sure that in whatever we do we follow the Constitution and we are guided by the Constitution,” she said.

Advocate Thembinkosi Magwaliba echoed similar sentiments.

“We do expect that the Judiciary in 2024 will uphold the principle of constitutionalism as highlighted by the Chief Justice. It is fundamental that all arms of the State comply and uphold that principle and the Judges and the Judiciary are there to ensure that all arms of the state do comply, so it’s a very lofty ideal that has been set and it should be achieved,” he said.

Another lawyer, Mr Joel Mambara said he hoped the Integrated Electronic Case Management System would be more efficient.

“We expect the IECM to work efficiently so that we go through without bottle necks and we also expect the courts will uphold justice,” Mr Mambara said.


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