Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku was sworn in as acting chief justice of Zimbabwe in mid-March 2001. In August 2001, he was appointed substantively as the chief justice.
Immediately prior to these appointments Justice Chidyausiku reportedly shocked lawyers in Zimbabwe with his conduct; while still judge president of the High Court, he had purported to vary a Supreme Court ruling.
The previous chief justice, Anthony Gubbay, had ruled against peasant farmer Samson Mhuriro and 26 co-applicants who wanted the court to prevent the owners of the farms they had invaded from evicting them. Their application was dismissed.
Despite this, Chidyausiku at the High Court granted Mhuriro 15 days to put together a class action on behalf of peasant occupiers of all commercial farms. The Supreme Court overruled his decision. Chidyausiku then used his opening of the 2001 Bulawayo High Court session to defend publicly his own judgment and criticize the Supreme Court for nullifying his decision.
This was clearly in contravention of the constitution which gives precedence to the chief justice and the Supreme Court.
A commentator in the Zimbabwe Independent noted at the time: “Goddie has become blinded by his allegiance to [ruling party] Zanu-PF that it is difficult to imagine him being impartial when presiding in a case in which the party or its government is a contestant.”