BULAWAYO – Chief Justice Luke Malaba was suspended and subsequently transferred from Bulawayo to Masvingo for obstructing the police while working as a magistrate, ZimLive can reveal.
Malaba was a regular patron at unlicenced residential bars known as shebeens in Bulawayo, and routinely clashed with police sent to clear the illegal joints in the early 1980s.
The then magistrate was required to make this disclosure before becoming a High Court judge, and when he attended public interviews to become Chief Justice – but there is no evidence he did.
Our revelations today will raise fresh questions about the 68-year-old’s fitness to hold office.
Malaba, then a 32-year-old magistrate, was suspended in October 1984 by the provincial magistrate for Matabeleland, Phil Finch. It was announced at the time that Malaba and another magistrate had been “prohibited from duty… in terms of the Public Services Regulations”, and that the matter was “being dealt with administratively”, according to a report in The Chronicle newspaper unearthed by this website.
A source who was a police officer at the time, and now works in government, disclosed that although the reasons for Malaba’s suspension were not publicly shared, the decision followed repeated police complaints about his conduct.
“The allegations against Malaba were initially raised by junior police officers who had been tasked with raiding shebeens in the suburbs of Bulawayo, especially Mpopoma,” the source said, after securing guarantees they would not be named for professional reasons.
“The officers complained that they repeatedly clashed with Malaba, who was a permanent patron in shebeens. It was alleged that Malaba made it impossible for the police details to discharge their duties as he would threaten them with the fact that he was a magistrate. The officers felt that at any rate it would be awkward arresting shebeen patrons who would ultimately appear before Malaba. They eventually decided to report the matter to the provincial magistrate.”
Finch, the source said, “took the view that Malaba’s conduct was indeed unworthy and constituted obstruction of the police in the exercise by them of their duties.”
Malaba was immediately transferred to Masvingo by Finch as punishment.
“The thinking was that he would then be charged for obstructing the course of justice. This did not happen for reasons that are not immediately apparent, but which smack of corruption,” the retired police officer said.
Malaba was handpicked to become a judge of the High Court and eventually that of the Supreme Court, but when he became Chief Justice and went through public interviews as required under the new constitution, he was required by the constitution to make full and frank disclose of all occurrences that potentially affected his ascension to the highest judicial office.
Evidence on hand shows that he did not disclose his suspension years earlier for obstructing the police.
Malaba, who became Chief Justice in March 2017, is due to retire in 2022 when he reaches the age of 70 – the top cap for judges.
Questions left for Malaba through the Judicial Services Commission had not been responded to, while Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi was not reachable at the time of publication.