Justice Bere walks out of hearing

The Herald

Fidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter

The legal battles by the team of lawyers representing suspended Supreme Court judge Justice Francis Bere to stop the tribunal investigating complaints against him continue, although the tribunal is still sitting, with one of the latest moves being an attempt to change the make-up of the tribunal.

The judge and lawyers walked out of the hearing, protesting the rejection of their request to have one of the panellists, Advocate Takawira Nzombe, recuse himself from the matter because he was allegedly linked to Harare lawyer Mr Itayi Ndudzo, a key witness.

The legal team was not content with a further six month extension of the tribunal, following the expiry of the given four months, and has now filed a High Court application challenging the lifespan of the tribunal inquiring into the fitness of Justice Bere to hold office.

So far, 10 witnesses have testified before the tribunal while two more witnesses are outstanding.

Hearings are continuing on Monday, with the presentation of evidence from these two witnesses.

Permanent Secretary for Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Mrs Virginia Mabhiza, told The Herald yesterday that since the court has ruled that the tribunal was properly constituted, the hearing of evidence started the day the judge’s team walked out.

“Unless the need to call for other evidence arises, the intention is to close the hearing of oral evidence after the testimony of the two outstanding witnesses,” she said.

“Thereafter, the evidence leaders will give their closing address summarising the evidence presented, what they argue as evidence established, and whether or not the proved facts, if any, amount to gross misconduct on the part of the honourable judge.

“Once this is concluded, the commissioners will proceed to consider all the evidence presented before them and compile their findings in a report for presentation to his Excellency the President of Zimbabwe.”

President Mnangagwa set up the tribunal inquiry into the fitness of Justice Bere to hold office after Mr Ndudzo accused him of interference in a civil case involving the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (zinara) and his relatives.

Justice Bere allegedly telephoned Mr Ndudzo, 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 Herald