HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe held its first ever public interviews for the vacant post of Chief Justice on Monday, reflecting President Robert Mugabe's reduced authority under a constitution adopted three years ago in the southern African country.

In the past, Mugabe had sole authority to appoint the head of the judiciary, but the 2013 charter requires candidates to be interviewed by the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), a panel of mostly senior judges and lawyers.

Mugabe then chooses from three names submitted by the JSC.

A University of Zimbabwe law student last week asked the High Court to stop the interviews, arguing the process was not transparent since the candidates were colleagues of, and known to, the interviewing panel.


The High Court on Sunday ruled in favor of the student, who also wanted Mugabe alone to appoint the Chief Justice. The government says it plans to change the constitution to give Mugabe that sole responsibility.

But the JSC, which employs all judges and magistrates, appealed the decision at the Supreme Court, automatically setting aside the High Court ruling.

The JSC decided early on Monday to hold the interviews, which were broadcast live on state television.

Three candidates were interviewed: deputy chief justice Luke Malaba, Paddington Garwe, a Supreme Court and Constitutional Court judge, and Rita Makarau, chairwoman of the Electoral Commission and secretary of the JSC.

(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Ed Cropley)

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