Zimbabwean Citizens Furious Government Spent Over $150,000 On Wigs For Judges In The Midst Of An Economic Crisis

“These are people who shout about sovereignty and anti-colonial rhetoric and yet they are still wearing hideous wigs,” one critiqued.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

| April 08 2019,

5:04 pm

Zimbabwe, a country currently experiencing an economic crisis, has come under fire from its citizens for spending over $150,000 to purchase "traditional" English blonde wigs for its judges.

The Zimbabwe Independent reports the country's Judiciary Service Commission placed 64 orders for the hair accessories. The particular request was made to London specialty shop Stanley Ley Legal Outfitters, where the wigs were crafted by hand "using traditional methods unchanged over centuries," according to its site.

The New York Daily News reports each powdered wig, varying in style, costs between $1,490 and $2,800. 

The country, recently devastated by the recent cyclone that took over 250 lives and displaced nearly 200,000 persons, was already suffering from a financial crisis, as Blavity reported

The country had reportedly been entrenched in a political debate about the wigs when the delivery was finalized and reported. Some judges support the tradition while others deem it an outdated colonial relic. 

Either way, citizens appear enraged, taking to social media to voice their frustrations not only due to the unnecessarily extreme money expenditure but also the "hideous" wigs themselves.

Director of Africa’s International Commission of Jurists Arnold Tsunga voiced his disapproval of the judicial attire, writing, "The judicial wig (colonial) tradition continues in with all its costs and controversy without any meaningful benefit to access to justice."

“The conditions in Zimbabwe’s courts are dire and yet they can find money for wigs costing thousands of pounds — it’s obnoxious,” Tsunga said to The Times.

Others seem to echo the sentiment.

Hopewell Chin'ono, a Zimbabwean journalist, alludes to the fact that Britain doesn't even wear the wigs and robe as religiously anymore. Instead, the wigs are only required during criminal cases. The reform came down in 2008, ending centuries of the custom.

Zimbabwean judges wear both traditional wigs and gowns daily in court. 

Still, the debate continues as senior government officials, such as Chief Justice Luke Malaba, assert that the tradition should continue. 

Face2Face Africa reports that many lawyers are against the dress code but do not hold enough weight or power to change it.

“A lot of Zimbabwe’s institutions are mentally stuck in the past," said Zimbabwean lawyer Lloyd Masipa. "We fought against the British for our freedom and yet now impose on ourselves many traditions that even the British no longer always observe.”

“I have argued here that this country suffers from a catastrophic mismanagement of resources,” Chin’ono added later. “How do you explain a government allocating $155,000 for wigs to be bought in England when the same government is failing to buy bandages and betadine for infants in pediatric wards?”

On last year's Global Hunger Index, Zimbabwe ranked at 107 out of 119 countries, with nearly 72% of its citizens living in poverty.

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