In Zimbabwe, are wigs “essential to the administration of justice”?

Should Zimbabwean judges continue to wear wigs? The former British colony has conducted a broad public consultation, which is due to end on Thursday, on the maintenance of an expensive practice considered sometimes as a tradition inspiring respect, sometimes as a relic of the colonial era.

Independent for over forty years, Zimbabwe, where the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September sparked mixed feelings, still imports wigs from Britain for its magistrates.

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The Zimbabwe Judicial Service Commission (JSC), a public body overseeing the work of judges in the southern African country, formed a committee in September ad hoc responsible for deciding “the removal or maintenance of the wig” in the courts of the country.

This committee published an online form last month questioning the population. Asking Zimbabweans if they consider these wigs to be “essential to the administration of justice”the JSC invites respondents to describe the hairstyle they would like to see worn by judicial officers.


Traditional blonde horsehair wigs, which other former British colonies have abandoned, can cost several thousand dollars each. A public expenditure criticized in a country plagued for years by a serious economic crisis and plagued by poverty.

In 2019, an order for 64 wigs for a cost equivalent to more than 137,000 euros caused outrage, especially among lawyers.

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“This practice should be discontinued to save money that could be allocated to other necessary expenses”estimated in a press release the group Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, describing a custom “outdated”.

“It’s just an old tradition from colonial timesexplained to AFP Me Alec Muchadehama. The authority of a judicial officer derives not from the way he is dressed but from the Constitution. »

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