The recent appointment of a Patriotic Front party ideologue as the new Minister of Justice by Zambian President Michael Sata demonstrates a clear disregard for principles of rule of law, said international lawyer Robert Amsterdam.
On Sept. 3, local media outlets reported that Wynter Kabimba, who serves as the secretary general of the ruling party as well as a non-specific cabinet portfolio, was appointed as a Member of Parliament and Minister of Justice by order of President Sata, replacing former Justice Minister Sebastian Zulu.
“There could be no greater definition of the Patriotic Front government’s disregard for judicial independence than the appointment of a political hit man as Justice Minister,” Amsterdam said. “Given the extraordinarily divisive and prejudicial statements made by Mr. Kabimba, this appointment should be seen as a clear indication that the Sata administration intends to pressure the legal system to persecute its opponents.”
President Sata’s appointment of Kabimba comes amidst an intensifying crackdown against members of the opposition, including Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development, who was violently arrested last month and later charged with a trumped up accusations which lawyers say may violate his right to free speech.
Amsterdam, who represents the former President Rupiah Banda and his son, Henry Banda, has appealed to a number of international organizations to raise awareness of the PF government’s abuses of power. On April 25th, 2012, Mr. Amsterdam filed a letter with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, among others, citing numerous threats and defamatory statements made by Mr. Kabimba against him and his clients.
Kabimba also controversially declared in July 23rd interview with The Post Newspaper that former President Rupiah Banda has “tribalism running in his blood,” in reference to a discredited false news story strictly based on an anonymous source.
“This is how President Sata’s defamation machine works,” said Amsterdam. “With the collusion of loyal and indebted friends in the media like Post editor Fred M’membe, this government pumps out fake news to deceive the public, and then responds to their own propaganda with dangerously misguided policies.”
Foreign investors and international aid donors must be particularly wary of the potential instability of a government that has shuffled its cabinet no fewer than five times in less than one year, said Amsterdam. “But the appointment of an ideologue like Kabimba should erase any lingering doubts. The PF’s legal position is completely discredited.”