CHIEF JUSTICE OF ZAMBIA: OPEN LETTER TO THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE!
[Brigadier General Godfrey Miyanda – 21st July 2013]
We reiterate that the irregular appointment of a substantive Chief Justice will not go away simply because some incoherent legal sounds have been made by some in authority. But now we are encouraged that at long last the Minister of Justice, under whose portfolio judges fall, has said something. We do not know what part the Minister has played in the confusion and unnecessary feuding that has gone on for over one year; but we commend him for breaking his silence. However his statement as reported by The Post newspaper (dated Friday 19th July 2013) raises more questions than it answers. Before we criticise him we seek clarification from him as he has not made clear which provision/s the President is relying on. We thus pose some questions.
Firstly, the decision by the Parliamentary Select Committee to reject the nomination of Madam Chibesakunda was made a year ago. When did the Minister of Justice become aware that the Select Committee has no power to make a final decision? Who has that final power of ratification? Can the President by-pass ratification? What did the Minister do to correct the purported irregularity by having the matter revert to the whole House? Why did he make the statement to The Post instead of a full Ministerial Statement in Parliament to allow MPs to ask questions?
Unless he has a credible explanation it is our view that he timed this speech to coincide with the adjournment of Parliament and leave no room for MPs to raise immediate questions until the matter simmers down in the intervening two or three months of the recess! In the absence of a Ministerial Statement in Parliament we demand that the Minister makes a public statement answering all aspects of this controversy, including the following: if the Select Committee does not have final authority, does the President have that final authority? Has the Leader of Government Business in Parliament consulted the Speaker to suggest compelling the Select Committee to submit their findings to the whole House? And what has been the Speaker’s advice?
We believe all these are serious constitutional queries that deserve a full response. We dispute the insinuation that where the Select Committee finds a constitutional or statutory bar they should subject that to a debate and vote in the House. We say that such a vote would be highly irregular because the MPs would be arguing over a constitutional provision, and in the process would be purporting to interpret the law, which is a preserve of the Judiciary. The Select Committee acted properly to enable the President to submit a qualified name in terms of Article 44(4).
We hope that the open door which the Minister claims has been left by the President for dialogue extends to Ministers as well. Since the President is not addressing the people we hope the Minister will do so by issuing a public statement, answering these and other questions made by many other citizens and civil society. Honourable Minister we await your reasoned response.
[21ST JULY 2013]