Brave Zimbabwe judge Priscilla Chigumba ‘who
took on President Mugabe’ by backing protesters
now accused of taking bribe

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Judicial Service Commission chairman Chief Justice
Judicial Service Commission chairman Chief
Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku grills Justice Priscilla
Chigumba during a public hearing at a Harare
hotel yesterday
Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
High Court judge Justice Priscilla Chigumba
reportedly solicited for a $20 000 bribe from one
of the parties in a case she was presiding over,
the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) revealed
yesterday.
JSC chairman Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku
said they were considering referring the case to
President Mugabe for him to set up a commission
to look into the matter.
This came out during an interview in which
Justice Chigumba was among eight High Court
judges that were being interviewed by the JSC to
be considered for elevation to the Supreme Court.
Justice Chigumba was grilled by members of the
JSC led by Chief Justice Chidyausiku over a
complaint that it received to the effect that the
judge had sent an agent to solicit for a bribe
from a Mr Kanokanga who was one of the parties
in a case in which she was presiding over.
Justice Chigumba
Justice Chigumba
Justice Chidyausiku said the JSC had received a
written complaint from Mr Kanokanga and said
while they had asked Justice Chigumba to make a
written response, she was obliged to comment on
the allegations since the commission was troubled
over the allegations given that she was now
seeking higher office.
“I think you are aware that Mr Kanokanga, who
was a party in a matter that you presided over
has alleged that you, through a third party (name
supplied) solicited a bribe for yourself and he
refused and paid a price of losing the case.
Obviously, the commissioners are really troubled
by these allegations,” said the Chief Justice.
“There are certain aspects of his complaints that
have a ring of truth, particularly where he said
the agent was invited to a restaurant where you
and this other person were having lunch. He also
said this agent had information pertaining to the
details of the proceedings when in fact he was
not present in that court and then of course, the
possibility that the alleged agent had fabricated
this story. Unfortunately, as an interviewing
panel, we do not have the investigative
machinery to determine where the truth lies.”
Mr Kanokanga, said Chief Justice Chidyausiku,
alleged that he had been impoverished as a result
of the judgment which saw him being evicted from
premises in the central business district
“Like Caesar’s wife, a judge has to be beyond
reproach. That’s the difficulty that the
commission finds itself. Obviously, the JSC has
the option of referring the matter to the
President for a judicial inquiry to be appointed.
That is something that we have to consider. The
complaint that was made is in such a way that we
cannot really just dismiss it without a proper
inquiry. It may as well be that the person that is
alleged to be your agent took advantage either of
your relationship and fabricated this whole thing
— that may be one scenario or that thing never
happened at all,” said Chief Justice.
In response Justice Chigumba denied the
allegations.
She said Mr Kanokanga, by his own admission,
was not mentally sound.
“Mr Kanokanga, during the course of the trial,
had indicated that as a result of this eviction, he
had become unable to function and had to be
treated by doctors for a mental disorder which
arose as he said, from the fact that he had been
impoverished by the eviction. He was very bitter.
So, to answer your question, I did not directly or
indirectly do or cause anything to be done which,
is inconsistent with my oath of office as a judge
or my duty to dispense justice without fear or
favour or prejudice. I would like Mr Kanokanga,
if he has any evidence that he can avail to the
commission of whatever it is, that he is alleging
to avail such evidence because an allegation which
is baseless and without foundation, in my view,
ought not to be allowed to influence anything
that is adverse towards me unless and until it is
substantiated,” said Justice Chigumba.
“Just because I was seen having lunch with
someone does not mean that I am responsible for
that person’s actions. The question that you put
to me that Caesar’s wife ought to be beyond
reproach, my response to that is I have already
taken oath of office of being a judge. Because I
took an oath of being a judge, I think that my
word or my moral probity ought to be believed,
the presumption should be, I am telling the truth
until such time evidence is placed before the
commission that something untoward happened.”
Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba weighed in,
“The issue of alleged impropriety on your part, is
a matter of great concern to the commissioners.
Do you know this eating outlet which is opposite
St John’s College? How does this person place you
at that eating place which you have not been to
for a long time in the manner he says you were
with this person who approached him (Mr
Kanokanga) and said you wanted $20 000? Your
position, of course, in your reply is that this
should be dismissed as a matter of madness,” said
Justice Malaba.
“Well, he is a self-confessed sufferer of mental
disorder. I have no idea of what was happening
in his head. He did say that he takes medication
for chronic depression. He did say he blames the
owner of the commercial premises for evicting him
because it rendered him unable to operate. I do
not know what effect my judgment had on him,”
said Justice Chigumba.
Chief Justice Chidyausiku also took issue about
the inclusion of his name and that of Judge
president George Chiweshe as her referees on her
curriculum vitae.
But Justice Chigumba said it was an oversight as
she had forgotten to update it.
Other High Court judges that were interviewed
were Justices Charles Hungwe, Alphas
Chitakunye, Francis Bere, Joseph Mafusire,
Nicholas Mathonsi, Samuel Kudya and Lavendar
Makoni.