In a major climbdown, Chief Justice Luke Malaba who had initially announced a ban on body-hugging, tight-fitting and colourful attire for legal practitioners appearing before the Magistrates’ Courts has reversed the ban, saying the directive was published by mistake.

As a result, Malaba has now withdrawn Practice Direction (PD) 6 of 2020, a dress code directive interdicting female lawyers from wearing skirts that exceed three centimetres from the knee while appearing at the magistrates court.

The ‘sexist’ directive was supposed to come into effect on July 1 2020.

Judicial Services Commission secretary, Walter Chikwanha has since written to the Law Society of Zimbabwe executive secretary Edward Mapara to announce that the dress code directive had been published by mistake.

“Please be advised that the PD was published in error, it is a draft which is still under consideration. We are aware that currently there are consultations with the Law Society of Zimbabwe. We will also be consulting with the Prosecutor General and the Attorney General. The Chief Justice has directed that the Practice Direction be withdrawn which we hereby do,” partly reads the letter.

The directive had attracted a lot of criticism, from particularly female legal practitioners who felt PD 6 of 2020 (dress code for legal practitioners appearing in the Magistrates Courts) was sexist in nature.

The directive, now reduced to a draft, had stated that would-be violators of the set dress-code regulations were not going to have an audience before the court with the presiding magistrate refusing to hear the legal practitioner until his/her attire meets the new requirements.

Prominent human rights lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa had dismissed the PD as ‘irritating’.

“Does this kind of dressing bring real justice to the people? What does this add to the justice system? Nothing. Even the British have abandoned this,” said Mtetwa.

“We can’t go back to colonial times and we can’t be forced to dress in this manner. It’s irritating,” she said.