Having been a British colony for close to a century, when the country finally attained its independence in 1980, it was not by default that Zimbabwe had to adopt the British judicial systems in its entirety along with many other important aspects of governance.
The then Chief Justice, Hector McDonald, presided over a judicial transformation which extensively borrowed from the British systems.
In 1980, one of the major systematic influences to the obtaining status quo was the appointment of a black man, Enoch Dumbutshena, to the bench. He subsequently became the Chief Justice in 1984.
However, among other systematic influences adopted from the colonial regime is the current Supreme and High Court judges’ regalia which derives a heavy influence from the red-special occasions Anglo-judicial regalia. The English judicial attire in its present form dates from about 1660, the time of the Restoration of the English Monarchy. The present Supreme and High Court judges’ regalia comprises of judicial robes, wigs, detachable collars and skull caps. However, the subject of the judges’ dress code has been a point of debate, with critics arguing that our justice delivery system must also indicate our norms, symbols and values.
They argue that foreign judicial systems artefacts and symbols must be done away with, so that locals truly assert their independence from foreign influence.
In the African tradition, judicial power, which is mostly a prerogative of the royalty, is symbolised by a shepherd staff. It is believed that a noble ruler preside over his subjects with a shepherd staff.
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