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Friday, 9 March, 2001, 12:08 GMT
Mugabe man named top judge
squatters on a white-owned farm
Farm occupations brought the government into conflict with the courts
President Robert Mugabe has succeeded in pushing through his nominee as Zimbabwe's new acting chief justice.

A week ago, Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay succumbed to months of government pressure and intimidation by agreeing to go on immediate leave before taking early retirement in late June.

Godfrey Chidyausiku
1980 - Deputy local government minister
1981- Deputy justice minister
1982 - Attorney general
1987 - High Court judge
2000 - Headed constitutional commission
The new head of the Supreme Court is Godfrey Chidyausiku, a former deputy minister and attorney general, whose appointment has now been approved by the judiciary services commission.

Mr Gubbay had angered President Mugabe by ruling against ministers several times over the government's controversial land reform programme - in which land is being redistributed without compensation.

Observers say Mr Mugabe has been determined to have a more compliant Supreme Court - especially ahead of presidential elections due by next year.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa says the new appointment is aimed "at reflecting the true nature of Zimbabwe".

Deal

Zimbabwe struck a deal with Mr Gubbay after he resisted pressure to be dismissed from his post.

Judge Anthony Gubbay
Gubbay: Decided to retire early after government pressure
It agreed to let Judge Anthony Gubbay remain as chief justice until the end of June, but in return he undertook to take immediate pre-retirement leave and not object to his replacement by an acting chief justice.

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

Mr Gubbay had challenged the government's use of special decrees to by-pass the constitution on several issues.

The government accused the judge, who is white, of bias in favour of Zimbabwe's white minority.

Just before the deal was announced Justice Gubbay was visited in his chambers by a self-styled veteran and warned to step down or face the consequences.

South Africa's top judges have expressed deep concern at what they called disrespect for the rule of law in Zimbabwe.

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See also:

09 Mar 01 | Africa
Zimbabwe buries murdered farmer
02 Mar 01 | Africa
Zimbabwe resolves judge row
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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