Speaker of National Assembly Patrick Matibini and President Michael Sata have allegedly differed over the selection of Lombe Chibesakunda as Chief Justice. Sources within the legislature and state have told the Watchdog that Matibini has written to Sata through Clerk of National Assembly Doris Mwiinga warning him that opposition Members of Parliament may not ratify Ms. Chibesakunda.
Meanwhile, the Law Association of Zambia committee met last week and rejected the appointment of Chibesakunda. The committee which comprises mostly state counsel (senior lawyers) said Chibesakunda is too old and past retirement age. The majority said the former Chief Justice Ernest Sakala was hounded out of office due to his age which was past retirement so they could not see why there should be a different criteria for Chibesakunda.
But the State Counsels who were appointed by Sata a few months ago insisted that there is nothing wrong with appointing her.
The majority of State Counsels said that the right person to take over as Chief Justice in Irene Mambilima since she is the substantive deputy Chief Justice.
The meeting was adjourned to later date for further consultations.
Acting deputy chief Justice Florence Mumba is said to have indicated that she wants to retire and is not interested in continuing as deputy or taking over as Chief Justice. Mumba reaches retirement age this year.
The Watchdog revealed last week that Sata had nominated Lombe Chibesakunda who has already reached retirement age as Chief Justice.
But sources have disclosed that Matibini is not sure whether opposition MP’s would agree.
The source further said the Speaker’s other concern is that the Parliamentary Select Committee tasked to scrutinise Presidential appointees is mainly comprised of opposition MP’s and it may be embarrassing to government if the response was negative.
A source at State House has confirmed that the Clerk of National Assembly has written to Mr. Sata proposing that he nominates another name.
Another source has disclosed that the development may lead to the breakdown in friendship between the Speaker and Post Newspapers proprietor Fred Mmembe who is behind the manoeuvres to appoint user friendly Chief and Deputy Chief Justices.
Ms. Lombe Chibesakunda the current acting Chief Justice is an Aunt to Chiefs Affairs Minister Nkandu Luo and has already reached retirement age.
A Supreme Court ruling championed by constitutional Lawyer John Sangwa says no Judge or Justice who has reached retirement age can be brought back to hold an office higher than previously held.
The Parliamentary Select Committee is expected to receive submissions from government wings on 4 and 5 February 2013