Respected Zambian law scholar Professor Michelo Hansugule says the Supreme Court ruling that allows a tribunal set up by President Michael Sata to go ahead hearing the three suspended judges has effectively weakened the judiciary in the country.
Acting Chief Justice Lombe Chibesakunda passed one of the most ambiguous Supreme Court ruling when she said President Sata acted within the constitution to suspend three judges but advised against proceeding with the same tribunal due to constitutional issues.
The three judges – Phillip Musonda (Supreme Court), Charles Kajimanga and Nigel Mutuna (High Court) – were at the centre of a judgment that found President Sata’s allies Fred M’membe (Post Newspapers owner) and Mutembo Nchito (Director of Public Prosecutions) guilty of defaulting over K18 billion public loan.
Exclusively speaking to Zambia Reports, Prof Hansungule, a lecturer at the University of Pretoria, said while he had not read the actual ruling to give a definite opinion more so he was scheduled for a meeting with the Acting Chief Justice, he still found the judgment wanting.
“If I can say anything out of what I get from media sources, the majority ruling is helping the Executive to weaken the judicial arm of government and I fully understand why senior members of the Executive on the case are celebrating,” the South Africa-based law lecturer said.
“Besides the Kingdom of Swaziland where High Court Judge Thomas Masuku was dismissed for a sentence he wrote about His Majesty the King in his judgment, this is the second case in the region where a judge is being investigated for discharging his functions as by law laid down.”
Prof Hansungule, a strong critic of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) who was given unfettered covered by the PF aligned Post Newspaper which is no longer the case now, said on the basis of the scanty information in public domain, he still cries for his country.
“This is sacred soil for another government branch to carelessly tread on. Article 91 (2) of the Constitution reads:
“(2) The Judges, members, magistrates and justices, as the case may be, of the courts mentioned in clause (1) shall be independent, impartial and subject only to this Constitution and the law and shall conduct themselves in accordance with a code of conduct promulgated by Parliament.
“This is echoed by relevant provisions of international law applicable to Zambia an example of which is Article 26 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights which enjoins States parties to guarantee independence of their judiciaries.”
Prof Hansungule adds, “…implicit in article 91 (2) above read with 98 (2) (3) and (4) is a duty on the President to carefully and calculatedly weigh his options as he considers invoking any of the sanctions against a judge in this sensitive branch of government.”
Prof Hansungule has promised, after thoroughly studying the heavily criticized and condemned judgment, to issue a comprehensive legal opinion.
Zambia is plunged in fear that with the judiciary sold out to President Sata and his business partners, clearly sacrificing its independence, the country is fast heading into a one party state where opposing views will be crushed with impunity.