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What Zimbabwe MPs said about the Constitution Amendment Bill-Part Four

 However, when we came up with the new Constitution, the people spoke loud and clear that they wanted those presiding officers to be equated to and to be at the same level as judges of the High Court.  As a result, Section 18 (6) became part of our Constitution.  More importantly, when we look at the qualifications of judges, I agree with the Hon. Vice President.  When we look at the hierarchy of our court, the Constitutional Court is the apex court.  It is the one which is at the top.  In terms of qualifications, it requires someone who has been entitled to practice as a legal practitioner for at least 12 years.  For the Supreme Court, it is 10 years.  When it comes to the High Court, the Labour Court and the Administrative Court, the qualifications are the same.

Previously, that was actually one of the arguments which was being used why there was a differentiation between those judges when in fact for you to qualify to be a judge of the High Court, or Labour Court as is now called, the qualifications are the same.  Since the qualifications which are in the Constitution are similar, it is important for us to maintain that position of equality.

I have no qualms with the issue of the High Court and I would like to reiterate that I appreciate that the Labour Court is a specialised court. It deals with labour matters and any other powers which may be granted to it by an Act of Parliament.  Similarly, that applies to the Administrative Court.  I believe, as my colleagues have pointed out that there are times when perceptions can be very important.

I want to draw the attention of Hon. Members to an incident which occurred when one of our Hon. Vice Presidents, in particular Hon. Vice President Mphoko took offence to be referred to as the second Vice President because there is no such creature in our Constitution.  In terms of our Constitution, the two Vice Presidents are the same because there is no reference as of now to first and second.  It will only come into effect in 2023 when we have got the issue of running mates.  I want to point out that there are times when perceptions are very important and sometimes they can be more important than reality.  The import of this amendment is to appear like we want to – not really demote them but in terms of the perception, it would appear that they are lesser than their counterparts who hold the same qualifications.

 I would also want to seek some clarification from our Hon. Vice President Mnangagwa as to the import of sub-clause 2 because first of all, when we talk for the purpose of Section 171 and you say ‘for the avoidance of doubt’, you say that the courts are subordinate to the High Court – for me, it is something which is implied in terms of the Constitution.  There is no need to put that for the ‘avoidance of doubt’ because it is actually implied.  We all agreed that the jurisdiction which the Labour Court enjoys is different to the special jurisdiction conferred to the other court.  For that reason, I do not see any reason why you want to put that particular clause.  More worrying for me, is the import of sub-clause 2 which says that, yes, the allowances and other benefits of judges of the Labour Court cannot be reduced but it gives the impression that there might be differentiation and I want that clarity.  Is there a future time when there might be a differentiation, because when we adopted the new Constitution, we equated those judges to be at the same level?  Does this clause envisage a situation where for instance, the salaries and perks enjoyed by judges of the High Court may be increased whilst those of the Labour Court judges remain where they are?  I just want to have that understanding so that we have a clear understanding as to whether there may be envisaged a future occasion where they might that difference.  I think that would be unfortunate and will fly in the face or against the spirit and the letter of Section 18 (6) of the Sixth Schedule.

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