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The BBC's Colin Blane
"The government told him they could not guarantee his safety"
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Judge Richard Goldstone
"Mugabe is showing an absolute disrespect for the Rule of Law"
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The BBC's Barnaby Mason
"Mr Mugabe did not want ugly scenes"
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Friday, 2 March, 2001, 22:18 GMT
Zimbabwe resolves judge row
Justice Gubbay and President Mugabe
The government has rejected several court decisions
The Zimbabwe Government has struck a deal with the country's most senior judge, after trying to dismiss him from his post.

It has agreed to let Judge Anthony Gubbay remain as chief justice until the end of June.


The chief justice, I think, is relieved. This crisis is over

Zimbabwe Bar Council chairman
In return, he will take immediate pre-retirement leave.

In a statement, the government promised that no steps would be taken to unlawfully remove any other judge.

And it withdrew unreservedly all statements impugning or questioning the good name, reputation, honour and integrity of the chief justice.

The statement also said that Mr Gubbay would not object to the immediate appointment of an acting chief justice - expected to be Judge Godfrey Chidyausiku, a supporter of the ruling Zanu-PF party.

And he will not preside over any court cases from now on.

Threat

The chairman of the Bar Council of Zimbabwe, advocate Adrian de Bourbon, told French news agency AFP that the compromise deal had ended the crisis.

"The chief justice, I think, is relieved. This crisis is over," De Bourbon said.

Mr Gubbay found his position threatened after challenging the government's use of special decrees to by-pass the constitution on several issues.

Judge Anthony Gubbay
Gubbay: Reconsidered earlier decision to retire
The government accused the judge, who is white, of bias in favour of Zimbabwe's white minority.

Earlier in the day, one of President Robert Mugabe's supporters, a self-styled war veteran, had warned Mr Gubbay to step down or face the consequences.

Militant Zanu-PF supporter Joseph Chinotimba told reporters in Harare that police had let him in to the chief justice's office "because I am big".

"I told him (Gubbay) to vacate the office today. If he wants to appeal he can appeal while he is at home," he said after his meeting which reportedly lasted an hour.

Ugly scenes avoided

Information Minister Jonathan Moyo said earlier this week that officers of the state would be sent to remove Mr Gubbay from his office if he did not leave.

But BBC correspondents say it is clear that President Mugabe did not want ugly scenes of his supporters using force to drive Mr Gubbay from his chambers.

Observers say Mr Mugabe can now achieve his aim of getting his own man as head of the judiciary by legal means.

His key objective is now to make sure that the Supreme Court does not question the conduct of the forthcoming presidential elections, they added.

Before the deal was announced, South Africa's top judges expressed deep concern at what they called disrespect for the rule of law in Zimbabwe and the escalating attacks on judges.

On Thursday, Britain said it would withdraw a team of military advisers and trainers for southern Africa based in Zimbabwe because of the deteriorating situation.

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See also:

10 Feb 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Zimbabwe's descent into violence
26 Oct 00 | Africa
Mugabe under pressure
19 Feb 01 | Africa
Why I left Zimbabwe
10 Feb 01 | Africa
Zanu-PF ups pressure on judges
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