In an effort to clear the air around the appointment of Zimbabwean judge Rita Makarau as acting judge of the Supreme Court until 31 March 2024, which caused uproar on social media, the Judicial Service Commission issued a media statement.
According to the chairperson of the commission Sakeus Akweenda, the lack of female representation on the Supreme Court bench remains an issue of significant concern and thus the commission has undertaken to earnestly address the issue. “To this end and in an effort to alleviate the Supreme Court’s workload, the commission resolved to recommend the appointment of three female judges to serve on the Supreme Court bench for the period 1 April 2023 to 31 March 2024.”
The judges appointed are current High Court judges Hannelie Prinsloo and Esi Schimming-Chase in addition to judge Makarau. According to the commission, Makarau brings with her a wealth of judicial experience, having practised as both a prosecutor and legal practitioner.
“She has extensive judicial experience which spans over 22 years and includes previous appointments as a judge and the judge president of the High Court of Zimbabwe and a judge of the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe,” the presser reads and continues: “She currently serves as a judge of the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe.”
The commission added that Makarau’s appointment was more to mentor Schimming-Chase and Prinsloo, based solely on her suitability to serve on the bench, her professional qualifications and experience as well as her expertise. The commission remained adamant the appointment has nothing to do with Makarau’s political associations, if any, nor with Namibia’s approaching elections.
It added that a cardinal feature of a democratic society is the doctrine that the judicial branch is independent, and that all judicial officers are protected from any influence or pressures from any source. The commission also reminded the public that judges take an oath to defend and uphold the constitution as the supreme law and fearlessly administer justice to all persons without favour or prejudice and in accordance with the laws of the Republic of Namibia. Due to this, the commission stated, the judges owe their loyalty only to the constitution and the law of the land.
Also, the commission stated, it is imperative for the Judiciary to have non-resident judges sit on appeals where local judges are not amenable to and emphasised that because of the sheer volume of cases coming to the court, judge Makarau’s assistance will be invaluable.