President Emmerson Mnangagwa has defied public sentiment by extending Chief Justice Luke Malaba’s term by another five years.
Malaba was due to retire from the helm of the Zimbabwean bench through retirement when he turns 70 this Friday.
But a rushed signing into law of the controversial Constitutional Amendment Bill No. 2 gave the President the legal tools to give the top jurist another lease of life at the helm of the country’s judiciary.
Mnangagwa’s decision to extend Malaba’s term was arrived at after medical reports proved the judge was fit to continue with his job.
According to state media, Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Misheck Sibanda has written to Malaba approving his term’s extension beyond his current age.
This comes in spite of Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum Director, Musa Kika, Young Lawyers Association and MDC Alliance Vice President, Tendai Biti having filed a court challenge against what was a highly anticipated extension of Malaba’s term.
Zimbabwe’s opposition is keen to see Malaba’s back after the top judge has been accused of interfering with judgements deemed unfavourable to the interests of the Zanu PF establishment.
His juniors within the bench have also accused their boss of overbearing influence on the outcome of court judgements.
Malaba has a special place in the hearts of Zanu PF after he presided over the famous 2018 electoral challenge against Mnangagwa by the latter’s main opponent Nelson Chamisa of MDC Alliance, who lost the case.
The judge presided over Mnangagwa’s inauguration 2017 after the Zimbabwean strongman muscled his way to the top job following a military assisted coup in November same year.
Before Malaba became the country’s top most court official, Mnangagwa, then Vice President and leader of a Zanu PF faction that was tussling for party control ahead of then President Robert Mugabe’s exit, put up a strong boardroom fight to have the judge appointed Chief Justice.