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Zimbabwean court dismisses top judge’s contempt case

A Zimbabwean court has dismissed an application by a civil society activist to have the country's top judge arrested for…

A Zimbabwean court has dismissed an application by a civil society activist to have the country’s top judge arrested for allegedly defying an earlier order barring him from continuing in office after he reached retirement age.Chief Justice Luke Malaba has been at the centre of a legal storm since President Emmerson Mnangagwa amended the constitution in May to allow the top judge to remain in office past the mandatory 70 years. The chief judge was due to retire in April when he turned 70. 

The amendment, which revised the retirement age for Constitutional and Supreme Court judges from 70 to 75 years, was however successfully challenged by lawyers last month, with the High Court ruling in May that Mnangagwa had erred in extending Malaba’s tenure by another five years.

The chief justice defied the previous High Court ruling and continued to report for duty, pending the outcome of an appeal against the May 15 judgement. 

This prompted the executive director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, Musa Kika, to file contempt of court charges against him.

The contempt of court case was heard in Harare on Thursday, with High Court judges Amy Tsanga and Slyvia Chirawu-Mugomba dismissing Kika’s application. 

“The application for civil imprisonment for the first respondent (Malaba) contempt of court is dismissed,” the judgement said.

Critics accuse Mnangagwa of trying to ensure that Malaba is in charge of the judiciary ahead of a potentially contentious 2023 general election.

The chief justice ruled in favour of the Zimbabwean leader in the 2018 presidential election court challenge.

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