On the occasion of the release of ‘The Judiciary and the Zimbabwean Constitution’ we met with its editor, Dr. James Tsabora, to discuss the process that led to the writing of this interesting publication.
Dr. Tsabora is a qualified lawyer in Zimbabwe, having obtained his bachelor of laws degree at the University of Zimbabwe. After graduating with a master’s degree in environmental law from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, he proceeded to study and graduate with a doctorate in law degree from Rhodes University in 2013.
He is passionate about international and constitutional law, due notably to the interlinkages between these subjects with politics and history – which are other interests of his.
On the connection between history, politics, and law, he says:
If you want to understand international law, you must understand international political history. Similarly, the major themes in a constitution – the rules, the principles, the norms – all are informed by constitutional history and also to some extent, by what other countries have provided for in their legal systems. So, I think international law and constitutional law, which are my passions, are critically to connected with the political history of society.’
His passion for constitutional law and history motivated his desire to write a book focusing on the judiciary. He states that there was a gap in Zimbabwean legal literature on the Judicial arm of the state, and how this arm was developing jurisprudence from the 2013 Constitution.
Dr Tsabora admitted that the book is intended to guide the courts and the judiciary in their interpretation of the rights provided in the 2013 Zimbabwe constitution. The book was the result of contributions by esteemed authors representing Zimbabwean law faculties and was made possible by support from, and collaboration with RWI and Sida.
We thought that we needed a book that would impact straight away on an important sector of society, and we agreed that the focus needed to be the judiciary. The book would assist the judges to interpret and analyse legal provisions in the Constitution’.
However, apart from being written primarily with judges and magistrates in mind, the book is also a great educational resource for legal scholars, legal professionals and students as well as individuals working in the private legal sector and NGOs.
The level of expertise presented means that it is also very useful for governmental agencies, such as the Ministry of Justice, the Attorney General Office, the National Prosecuting Authority or the police department, in their various professional activities including legal training of senior staff.
Dr.Tsabora highlighted four major takeaway themes this book focuses on in relation to the newly written 2013 constitution of Zimbabwe.
Firstly, it examines the structure and the mandate of the judiciary, looking notably at the procedures of appointment as well as how to ensure judicial independence.
Secondly, the book isn’t limited to only national analysis, but also explores international and regional standards/ frameworks and their effects on the structure of the judiciary in Zimbabwe.
Thirdly, the text considers in depth human rights interpretation, focusing on how the human rights and freedoms included in the constitution have been interpreted, and are to be interpreted in the future.
Fourthly, the book explores comparable interpretation of rights and freedoms in other jurisdictions for the purposes of providing guidance to the Zimbabwean judiciary.
Dr.Tsabora’s work on the Zimbabwean constitution is set to continue, with a book on Parliament and the Zimbabwean Constitution in the pipeline.
‘I love constitutional law because it speaks to our everyday life. It speaks to how we are governed every day, how our society is structured. How our political and economic systems are structured. And also, how our rights are respected and promoted, how our elections are conducted and how power is exercised and regulated in general.’
He aims to update the ‘The Judiciary and the Zimbabwean Constitution’ every five years, hoping to make the subsequent editions even more informative and insightful.
Dr Tsabora’s other constitutional law projects include a book on the interpretation of the declaration of rights and freedoms in the Constitution, and another textbook on the Executive and the Zimbabwean Constitution.
In regard to these projects, Dr. Tsabora issues a call for international cooperation, inviting academic collaboration from interested scholars willing to contribute to knowledge and literature in the stated fields of law.