PRESIDENT Mnangagwa has fired Supreme Court Judge, Justice Francis Bere, for gross misconduct following recommendations by the tribunal set up to inquire into his fitness to hold the office of a judge.
Justice Bere was accused of having interfered in a civil case involving the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara).
He is said to have called Harare lawyer Itayi Ndudzo and asked him to consider settling a civil dispute between Zinara and Fremus Enterprises (Pvt) Ltd, linked to the judge’s relatives.
Early last year, Mnangagwa appointed, on the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), a tribunal comprising retired judge Justice Simbi Mubako, Harare lawyer Rekayi Maphosa, Takawira Nzombe and Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs secretary Virginia Mabiza to decide on Justice Bere’s suitability to continue holding the office of a judge.
The tribunal presented its findings and recommendations to President Mnangagwa at State House yesterday after which the report was actioned and the decision made to sack the judge immediately.
In a statement, the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Dr Misheck Sibanda, said President Mnangagwa’s decision to fire the judge followed due process.
He said following advice from the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), that Justice Bere’s conduct needed investigation, President Mnangagwa, acting in terms of the Constitution, appointed through Proclamation Number 1 of 2020, a tribunal to inquire into the question of removal from office of the judge.
“The tribunal has completed its investigations and has recommended that Honourable Justice Bere JA be removed from office for acts of gross misconduct,” said Dr Misheck Sibanda.
“His Excellency the President, accordingly acting in terms of Section 187(8) of the Constitution, has removed the Honourable Judge from office with immediate effect.”
This means the tribunal made adverse findings and recommendations leading to the judge losing his post. If it had cleared him of any wrongdoing, he could have returned to the bench.
The tribunal is not a criminal court, but can report that certain conduct is not consistent with holding judicial office.
Investigations were concluded in the absence Justice Bere and his legal team after they walked out on the proceedings in protest over the tribunal’s refusal to have one of its members, Advocate Takawira Nzombe, recuse himself because of his alleged links to the lawyer who was a crucial witness in the inquiry.
Defence lawyers were also not happy with the extension of the tribunal’s tenure by another six months after the expiry of its initial tenure of four months.
Lead defence counsel Advocate Froze Girach, Advocate Lewis Uriri and Prof Lovemore Madhuku walked out of the hearing protesting what they claimed to be a “violation of legal procedure”.
President Mnangagwa set up the tribunal inquiry on the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission after the lawyer accused Justice Bere of interference in a civil case involving the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) and his relatives.
The judge allegedly telephoned the lawyer, 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.
The tribunal sought to establish whether or not Justice Bere conducted himself improperly in violation of the oath of office and the Constitution by interfering in the matter at the centre of the inquiry.