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Anthony Gubbay

When the University of Essex conferred an Honorary Doctorate on Anthony Gubbay in 1994, the Public Orator mentioned that one of the attributes of a good judge is that very little is known about him. Judge Gubbay is indeed a private person but the stand he took while he was Chief Justice of Zimbabwe has made him more prominent.

In 1952 Anthony Gubbay graduated from Wits with a BA in Greek and in Classical Life and Thought. He then read Law at Jesus College, Cambridge where he obtained an MA (1955) and later an LLM. He was admitted to practice in 1957 and the following year emigrated to Southern Rhodesia (as it was then). In 1958 he also married Wilma Sanger and, in Bulawayo, where they set up home, he commenced private practice as a junior advocate. Anthony Gubbay advanced rapidly in his profession and by May 1974 had become a Senior Counsel. He was subsequently appointed as President of the Matabele and Midlands Valuation Board, National President of the Special Court for Income Tax Appeals, the Fiscal Court and Patents Tribunal and Chairman of the Law Development Commission of the Rhodesia Bar Association. In May 1977 he was sworn in as a Judge of the High Court. He was appointed Acting Judge of the Supreme Court in 1983, an appointment made permanent the following year. When Anthony Gubbay was sworn in as Chief Justice of Zimbabwe in 1990, he was, at 58, the youngest person ever to occupy this position. He resigned as Chief Justice in 2001 after war veterans were allowed to invade the Supreme Court building in Harare and dance on the tables and after the President of Zimbabwe had said ‘The courts can do whatever they want, but no judicial decision will stand in our way. They are not courts for our people and we shall not even be defending ourselves in these courts’.

Throughout Zimbabwe’s State of Emergency (1965-1990) and throughout the turbulent recent years during which the independence of the courts has been ruthlessly challenged, Judge Gubbay has been above reproach in the manner in which he has upheld basic human rights in the country’s courts. A compassionate man, he has endeavoured to ensure that free legal representation is available for indigent accused and that prison conditions were made more humane. His exceptional achievements have been recognised internationally by numerous awards and by invitations to address prestigious legal bodies in Canada, England, the USA and India. He was the recipient of the Peter Gruber Foundation’s Justice Prize for 2001 at Runnymead, UK. In 2002 the University of London awarded him an Honorary Doctorate of Law.

Anthony Gubbay was born in England but has for many years been a Zimbabwean by nationality and continues to live in Zimbabwe. He and his late wife, who died last year, have two sons. The elder, a Rhodes Scholar, is a tax specialist and a partner of a large firm of London solicitors. His younger son lives in Vancouver and is an actuary employed by a leading Canadian firm. These days Anthony has more time to devote to his interests outside the law. These include tennis (he is recorded as having been the best player in Jesus College when he was at Cambridge), philately and classical music.