The Judicial Services Commission (JSC) has reassigned a top judge for telling Prosecutor General Kumbirai Hodzi to “go back to law school” after bungling an appeal in a high profile robbery case, it emerged this week.
High Court judge Justice Tawanda Chitapi has been reassigned to the civil division from handling criminal cases, sources told Business Times yesterday.
Last month, Justice Chitapi asked the top prosecutor to familiarise himself with the country’s statutes after an application against bail on suspected armed robber Musa Taj Abdul.
Chitapi dismissed Hodzi’s appeal against bail granted to Taj Abdul, his accomplices Rudolph Tapiwa Kanhanga and Godfrey Mupamhanga. The trio was granted bail by High Court judge Benjamin Chikowero last December.
Sources said Justice Chitapi was instructed to apologise. It was not clear who had instructed Justice Chitapi and whether he had apologised.
A well-placed source told Business Times the reassignment of the top judge was akin to a demotion.
“This is a classic case of demotion after Justice Chitapi blasted Hodzi and was told to apologise. Considering his experience in criminal cases he was eventually reassigned to the civil division of the High Court,” the source said.
Efforts to get a comment from the JSC were fruitless as questions sent had not been responded to by the time of going to print.
JSC secretary Walter Chikwanha was away and came back yesterday with his office expecting him to be back at work today.
During the bail ruling, Justice Chitapi said he was taken aback by Hodzi’s failure to comprehend legal fundamentals when making an appeal. He further noted that it had worryingly become the norm for officials at the National Prosecuting Authority to rush to courts armed with poor applications.
Justice Chitapi upheld Justice Chikowero ruling. “The applicant is advised to familiarise his office with important judgments of this court and the Supreme Court on key operational areas of law like bail generally. I have no doubt that the applicant may well have been advised not to mount this unmeritorious application.”
This is not the first time that judicial matters have come under spotlight.
Recently, Justice Erica Ndewere was suspended and is expected to face a tribunal over various allegations while Justice Bere was removed from the bench on misconduct charges.