High Court Judge Accused of Misconduct and Harassment by GBV Survivor in Zimbabwe

GBV Survivor Accuses High Court Judge of Misconduct in Zimbabwe

by Oluwatosin Alabi


In a concerning development in Zimbabwe’s legal circles, a Harare woman, Rita Marque Mbatha, a survivor of gender-based violence (GBV), has brought forward allegations against High Court Judge, Justice Catherine Bachi-Muzawazi. Mbatha claims that the judge has engaged in unprofessional conduct, including stalking and harassment, following a landmark legal victory in 2021 where she was awarded US$180,000 in damages.

The case stems from Mbatha’s prior employment with the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), where she was sexually harassed by her former boss, Farai Bwatikona Zizhou. After winning her case in the High Court, Mbatha alleges that Justice Bachi-Muzawazi illegally summoned her to chambers, attempting to coerce her into consenting to an application for the rescission of judgment lodged by Zizhou.

In a letter to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) dated December 28, 2023, Mbatha detailed her ordeal and expressed her distress over the alleged misconduct of the judge. She revealed her concerns over being constantly monitored and followed, stating that she had to alter her routines due to fear and anxiety caused by the stalking.

The complaint raises significant questions about the right to dignity, privacy, and personal security, fundamental human rights that Mbatha argues are being violated. She accuses the JSC of failing to act on her initial complaint, lodged in September 2022, thus allowing the situation to escalate.

The deputy chief magistrate, Bianca Makwande, acting on behalf of JSC secretary Walter Chikwanha, had acknowledged receipt of Mbatha’s complaint in 2022, promising an investigation. However, 15 months later, the outcome of this investigation remains undisclosed, prompting Mbatha to accuse the JSC of being a “cesspool of corruption” and of protecting Justice Bachi-Muzawazi from scrutiny.

Mbatha’s case is not just a personal struggle but highlights broader issues within Zimbabwe’s judicial system. It underscores the challenges that survivors of sexual violence face in seeking justice, especially when allegations are directed towards high-ranking officials within the judicial system.

Mbatha’s plea for justice goes beyond her personal case; it is a call for accountability and transparency within the legal framework of Zimbabwe. Her case demands that allegations of judicial misconduct be investigated thoroughly and impartially, respecting the rule of law and the rights of individuals to fair treatment by the justice system.

The situation also brings into focus the importance of safeguarding the rights and dignity of GBV survivors. It illustrates the need for mechanisms that protect survivors from further victimization and ensure that their cases are handled with the utmost sensitivity and professionalism.

In conclusion, Rita Marque Mbatha’s allegations against Justice Catherine Bachi-Muzawazi and the subsequent inaction by the JSC present a critical test for Zimbabwe’s judicial system. It is a situation that calls for immediate and decisive action to uphold the principles of justice, protect the rights of GBV survivors, and maintain the integrity of the legal system. As Mbatha awaits a resolution, her case serves as a stark reminder of the challenges faced by survivors of sexual violence in their pursuit of justice, and the imperative need for reform and accountability in judicial conduct.

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