Laz and its protection of corrupt judges

Laz and its protection of corrupt judges

 

The current leadership of the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) will go down in history as the weakest, most incompetent, uninspiring and irrelevant.

So far, the current LAZ leadership has failed to inspire anyone except maybe their spouses and those they speak for: corrupt elements. Just scan public discourse and see if you will find any complimentary words on the current LAZ leadership. All you will see is contempt and ridicule. LAZ is currently irrelevant to the public. The current LAZ leadership is a disgrace.

Wednesday afternoon, the LAZ Council issued a statement signed by their president Eddie Mwitwa but authored by Eric Silwamba. Yes, before the statement was issued, Silwamba and LAZ president Eddie Mwitwa met at Portico. That is why we issued an alert in the morning that LAZ had agreed to shield corrupt judges and Silwamba. We also know that Mwitwa is often subcontracted by Silwamba for some small cases. The boy is under captivity.

So we are not surprised at all by the LAZ statement which seeks to intimidate the media and interfere with the independence of the media and freedom of speech.

The statement by LAZ that they will support whatever punishment Silwamba and his corrupt bunch of lazy judges will dream of can not and will never intimidate us. We have been there before. We are only doing our job. We know that in our line of work, we question the powerful and corrupt. Our lives are always in danger. But we are never intimidated or diverted. So bring it on LAZ. We will not stop exposing corruption in the judiciary.

We find it peculiar and strange that of all institutions in society, only LAZ has come to the defense of Silwamba and his corrupt judges. We find it peculiar but not surprising. This is the only institution Silwamba has overbearing influence on. LAZ cannot condemn what Silwamba does because that is their standard. The boys in LAZ aspire to be like Silwamba; that is, to ‘know’ the judges more than the law. Most lawyers in LAZ will kill to take up Silwamba’s position. He is their role model. We however know that there are some decent lawyers in Zambia and that actually there are some honourable judges even at the Supreme Court. But to suggest as LAZ does that Zambian judges are above reproach is stupid.

LAZ says members of the public and journalists should report to the Legal Practitioners Committee of LAZ, the Judicial Complaints Authority and the Anticorruption Commission if they have evidence of corruption against judges. As far as we are concerned, this matter has already been reported to ACC so the public is awaiting on the ACC to begin the investigations.

We don’t think there is anyone in their right mind who can go to report to the LAZ Committee after this patently biased statement from LAZ. LAZ has already issued its judgment so which fool would go to a small branch of LAZ to complain? It’s like trying to appeal a Supreme Court judgment in the magistrate court.

Noting that the judicial Complaints Authority is comprised of people of the same class as the accused, it is very difficult for a person who is not in the legal profession to trust this group although it is far more respectable than the current LAZ.

LAZ said it is contemptuous to allege bias and incompetence by a court. We find this statement quiet misleading. What should bias and incompetence by a judge be called? Does it mean that members of the public have no opinion on how the judiciary operates? Where is judicial accountability? We think the law should not be the same thing as its agents, the judges. Judges remain human beings prone and open to the same weaknesses that every other human being has. They can make mistakes, they can be bribed, they can lie, they can misunderstand the law. So they need to be monitored and when they are wrong, admonished like everyone else. When allegations of corruption against them are raised, they must be probed and cleared depending on findings. Shielding judges completely from investigations is wrong and simply fortifies speculations of corruption. It undermines the credibility of the judiciary. Members of the public will believe that they are hiding something. Subjecting these three judges to a tribunal won’t be the first time that judges have been probed. Judge Nigel Mutuna has been suspended and probed before and interestingly, Silwamba was his lawyer.

We don’t think the mandate of LAZ is to protect criminals in the judiciary. We think LAZ should protect the integrity of the judiciary by properly investigating allegations of corruption against its members.

The judiciary might be insulated from making public statements in order to preserve its dignity, but we do not think that judges are insulated from receiving bribes.

LAZ further said that the decision of a three-man panel of the Supreme Court as was the case in the controversial Savenda v Stanbic, are decisions of the entire court comprising of 13 judges of the Supreme Court and that it is only in situations where there are dissenting views that decisions of the majority carry the day.

Well, the three judges were bribed the same amounts so how can you expect dissent? We however think that in an, unsatisfactory and questionable judgement like this one, a dissatisfied party should be allowed to have his case heard by all the 13 judges. We feel that the case of Savenda is one case that should be heard by more judges. In fact we feel that this is the case that should be heard in a public court or even live on TV. This is what LAZ should be advocating for instead of issuing threats and promising to support judicial dictatorship. It won’t work.

LAZ further said it did not see what role the constitutional Court judge named and alleged as a recipient of the bribe had to play in the decision-making process by the Supreme Court in the Savenda matter. Well, this is amusing. The article we wrote on why Judge Annie Mwewa Sitali was bribed was very clear. But then, this is the same LAZ which recently said that it does not know whether the Zambian president is a public figure. So really, when it comes to failure to comprehend, the current LAZ leadership is excellent.

Regarding Eric Silwamba in particular, we have cited many examples of unethical conduct in addition to bribing judges. We explained how Silwamba, despite being the chairman of ZCCM, he is still representing mining companies that are under ZCCM. We also cited another example where Silwamba is representing two rival clients. Bookers Bus Services sued Stanbic Bank. Eric Silwamba is the lawyer for Bookers. This case is pending in the Supreme Court. Then Savenda sued Stanbic, Eric Silwamba turned 360 degrees and started representing Stanbic thereby neglecting his financially weaker client Bookers. We understand the old man who owns Bookers almost died of shock and had to be rushed to India. But did LAZ even mention these cases in their statement? No. They cannot. They cannot because they are, or wish to be as corrupt as Silwamba.

LAZ is a member of the Oasis Forum that is pushing the law enforcement agencies to act on suspicious activity reports contained in the report by the Financial intelligence Centre. We find this twofaced behavior by LAZ sickening. On one hand, they want the police to investigate unsubstantiated charges by FIC; on the other hand, they want people who are alleging bribery by judges to be punished. We think other members of the Oasis Forum should treat LAZ with suspicion and the contempt it deserves. We hope LAZ knows that the LAW firm that the FIC says was used to launder money is for Eric Silwamba.

In conclusion we condemn in the strongest terms possible any acts by LAZ or indeed any lawyer which are calculated at interfering with the freedom of the press and freedom of speech. . We also condemn any acts aimed at stifling the independence of the media.

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