The Chief Justice sets a Wigs Committee to discuss the ongoing usage of ‘outdated’ colonial hairpieces.

CHIEF Justice Luke Malaba has set up a Judicial Wigs Committee (JWC) to investigate whether the hairpiece, worn at official functions by judges of higher courts, is still necessary.

Announced by the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) Thursday, the committee will solicit contributions from stakeholders in the justice delivery system and citizens.

The decision follows a challenge by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), which argued that besides being a relic of colonial Rhodesia, they are intimidating and expensive.

“The raging debate on whether judges should continue wearing Judicial wigs has resulted in the Chief Justice of Zimbabwe setting up a JWC to see if the regalia is still necessary,” said the JSC.

“Judges are debating, but the committee now wants to hear views from the general public before making a decision.

“It is on this basis that Malaba constituted the JWC to stir discussions and solicit the views and comments of all stakeholders in the justice delivery system and the public.”

ZLHR had triggered a debate arguing that the practice was outdated.

“The practice of wearing wigs by judges of the superior courts in Zimbabwe must be dropped as this is now outdated and not relevant,” said ZLHR in its challenge.

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“The wigs were introduced to Africa during colonial days. Most British colonies that include Zimbabwe still have the practice of judges wearing wigs. Some have argued that wigs create an environment of intimidation and fear that is not needed in the courtroom.

“This practice must be dropped to save money that could be reallocated for other necessary costs such as subsidising the user fees.”

There was uproar in 2019 when the JSC bought 64 of the wigs in question from UK firm Stanley Ley Legal Outfitters in London at a price of £1 850 (US$2 086.08) each, with the bill as high as £118 400 (US$132,973.86).

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