By Brigadier General Godfrey Miyanda
I call upon the President to publicly justify the unconstitutional appointment of an Acting Chief Justice. It is unacceptable for him and his ministers to divert attention from a serious constitutional query regarding his failure to appoint a qualified substantive Chief Justice. The deafening silence that is loudly confronting us justifies public concern at the lack of observance of the Constitution and other laws. We demand immediate corrective action within the law by the Executive. We urge the Government for once to be transparent and let the nation know what its intentions are; this matter will not go away by simply keeping quiet while secretly scheming another ambush on the judiciary!
The issue is NOT about sour grapes as alleged by the Minister of Justice; instead of trivialising the issue the government must answer the questions raised against the appointment of Madam Justice Chibesakunda.
There are serious constitutional and legal implications if the President does not sort out the mess he has created by purporting to appoint an unqualified person to act permanently, thus remaining the de facto Chief Justice. We are not questioning the professional qualifications of Madam Justice Chibesakunda, but are discussing her disqualification from nomination by a constitutional provision. It is definitely not sour grapes by the MMD; the nation begun raising queries long before the Dora Siliya judgement! Regrettably it is now the Government’s practice to dodge issues and engage in unproductive finger-pointing.
The purported appointment of Madam Justice Chibesakunda as Chief Justice lacks integrity and is obviously in bad faith with a clear ulterior objective. The integrity that is in issue is NOT that of the appointee but that of the appointing authority, the President, who has created this situation! It appears that the President is ill-advised, but in the end the buck stops at his feet! We therefore advise the PF leadership to stop diverting attention from real issues by name-calling of anyone who points out their failure to act within the law. Further they must stop using uninformed cadres to comment on serious national issues that require the President’s attention.
Finally we call on the PF Ministers, especially those who are lawyers, to refrain from politicking when they respond to criticism. Let them state the law that they are depending on to support their argument. So far we have not heard the Minister of Justice to explain why they took to Parliament for ratification the name of a person who is not qualified; she was not disqualified by Parliament but by the Constitution! It is either they did NOT carry out a thorough research or they chose to ignore the applicable law. Why have they kept in office an unqualified person acting beyond six months after mischievously hounding out the qualified substantive Chief Justice about to retire? Which law are they depending on to support their case? If the President is unable to answer these questions, let the lawyers in the Government do so; if they make a convincing case we shall refrain from criticising them. Keeping quiet will not make this constitutional breach go away!
[3rd July 2013]