The British may have left Zimbabwe nearly four decades ago, but their powdered wigs are still being worn with pride in the former colony’s courts. However, Zimbabwe is facing economic difficulties with a lot of the population living in poverty, so it sparked outrage when the country’s legal authorities have reportedly ordered powdered wigs worth thousands of dollars for senior judges.
The investigation was carried out by the Zimbabwe Independent, and they revealed that the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) ordered the 64 wigs from the exclusive and expensive Stanley Ley Legal Outfitters in London. The wigs cost up to £2,000 each (over 2,000 dollars).
In Zimbabwe, some senior judges argue that the wigs are important to maintain tradition and professionalism. But many say that this argument is highly flawed.
The move has drawn criticisms from many people, considering the country is in the midst of an economic crisis.
Arnold Tsunga of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said:
“The conditions in Zimbabwe’s courts are dire, and yet they can find money for wigs costing thousands of pounds — it’s obnoxious.”
The ordering of the wigs is also coming at a time when there is a debate over Zimbabwean judges wearing wigs, as many see it as a colonial relic.
Harare based lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said:
“What surprises me in Zimbabwe is that we say everything against colonialism, but we live more colonial than the colonizers themselves. A normal litigant would be intimidated to get into a courtroom full of ridiculously dressed judges.
Why can we not dress decently? If we want to wear wigs, why can’t we make them in our own way? Those wigs were meant for white judges – we look ridiculous.”
According to Stanley Ley website, the shop has “provided robing, bespoke tailored clothing, and accessories to the members of the English Bar and the legal profession for many years.”
It says “all wigs at the shop “are handmade by craftsmen in England using traditional methods unchanged over centuries.”
“They are made from 100% pure horsehair,” the website notes.
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