HARARE Zimbabwe held its first public interviews on Tuesday to fill vacancies at the Supreme Court, taking a step towards complying with a new law that eventually could weaken President Robert Mugabe's tight grip on the country.
A new constitution recently signed into law should deprive Mugabe of his power to appoint judges on his own authority. Now he will have a role in nominating candidates, but only one role. He and members of the public will propose candidates, who will then be interviewed by Zimbabwe''s Judiciary Service Commission.
The commission will then forward a list of successful candidates to the president to choose from. On Tuesday, 10 judges from the High Court and Labour Court were interviewed.
Although Zimbabwe's new charter allows for greater freedoms, the government has yet to bring to parliament 400 laws that include security and media laws, to be amended, more than a year after the constitution was adopted.
"We are working to align these 400 laws to the new constitution, but this will take some time," Fortune Chasi, the deputy justice minister, told Reuters on Tuesday.
Some citizens have challenged in the Constitutional Court laws they argue were not in sync with the new constitution.
The Constitutional Court has given three major rulings making it legal for Zimbabweans to have dual citizenship and has struck down a criminal defamation law and provisions that make it criminal to insult the president.
Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku led the questioning by an eight-member panel of the commission. Most of the questions dealt with the candidates' record as judges, their experience, and issues related to integrity.
Among the candidates was High Court Judge Charles Hungwe, who was in the local news in January after a woman in his company died from an asthma attack. Hungwe told the panel he did not think the incident affected his integrity as a judge.
(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Larry King)