By Given Mutinta
Zambia is not a failed State. Therefore, national decisions must be made by applying known legal principles. This is why we are a nation that abides by the rule of law.
It is however astounding to witness how President Michael Sata enacts decisions that undermine the rule of law by inventing his own separate frameworks of rules for separate subgroups of the population.
This is plain in the case in which Sata suspended justices Nigel Mutuna, Phillip Musonda and Charles Kajimanga in connection with the handling of the matter in which the defunct Zambia Airways owned by Mutembo Nchito the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and Fred M’membe the owner of the Post newspaper who owe the Development Bank of Zambia (DBZ) K14 billion.
Sata has appointed the Malawi High Court Judge Lovemore Chikopa to head the tribunal that will investigate the purported misconduct of the three suspended Judicial Officers. However, the process that led the formation of the tribunal is smudged with encroachments with regards the rule of law.
If Sata was not riding on the rule of law, why is that M’membe and Nchito did not lodge their complaint against the three Judicial Officers to the Judicial Complaints Authority (JCA)? Is it not the JCA that enforces the code of conduct and mandated to objectively and thoroughly investigate allegations of misconduct against Judicial Officers?
We know that the Constitution, Article 91 sub article 2 and the judicial code of conduct, section 20 and 24, sub section 1 required that the whole process first start with JCA. After the investigations, JCA would have sent the report on their investigations to the Chief Justice Ernest Sakala who in sequence would have recommended to Sata to set up a tribunal to adjudicate on, or determine claims or disputes presented by M’membe and Nchito.
If we have regard for the rule of law, why was M’membe and Nchito’s complaint not first dealt with by JCA? Why did the litigants not follow the procedural due process instead lodged their case with President Sata?
The fact that JCA was disregarded who objectively and scrupulously investigated the allegations of misconduct against the three Judicial Officers? Furthermore, the Chief Justice was also marginalised therefore who advised Sata on his decision to suspend the Judges? Which legal framework did Sata use to arrive at his decision?
Besides, how can a High Court Judge investigate a Supreme Court Judge? Does this mean that a Judge in the High Court has jurisdiction in the Supreme Court? Is the position of a High Court Judge interchangeable? These are some of the issues that make the tribunal problematic. Where is the rule of law?
What we are experiencing is a perfect ‘modus operandi’ of the kangaroo judiciary where Sata is free to enact decisions which undermine the legal processes via the setup of his own separate frameworks of rules to favour his allies or pin down his alleged opponents.
Sata’s contempt of the rule of law is an indicator of bad governance and absolute rule. He has weakened the basic norms and institutions of our democratic society especially transparency and deliberation that are essential for realising the rule of law.
The value of the rule of law cannot be overstated. If we want to play the game, we have to know the rules. The laws are the rules of the game. They are guideposts to our country and good leadership.
If we allow Sata to discount the rule of law what will be giving us insight, vision, and direction when we are barraged with a litany of problems?
Why should this country be governed like a failed State? We need laws to give us a support system to follow continually. The incursion and assault on the rule of law is unacceptable.
As a veteran politician, Sata should know better that the rule of law is one sure way to good governance. It also leads to the creation of a democratically functional society that functions on commonly accepted norms and practises.
The laws in our constitution were not adopted for nothing. The constitution and institutions were developed to protect and promote the rule of law.
Sata’s conduct with regards M’membe and Mutembo’s court case warrants impeachment. To discount JCA and the Chief Justice from performing their functions was unlawful exercise of authority and power. Sata defied the stipulated appropriate values and substantive standards for his rights to governance and use of power.
To have a country that abides by the rule of law we need citizens who cannot yield to threats of wicked syndicates. Our silence at the cost of the rule of law indicates how we have been compromised.
It also shows how we have fallen in individual and national moral stature to pursue national goals indefatigably in the face of government thugs, ruffians, hooligans, and antagonists.
Why does this country appear to be short of autonomists and nationalists? It seems the blood that runs in most of us has become tribal and regional than ‘national’. Hence, we fail to see something wrong when our tribesmates in power ride on the rule of law.
Why is it difficult to find citizens with unbreached commitment to the good, and no matter the opposition? We need to strive for incorruptibility and grandeur, even though evil forces may make us fail to achieve practical victory.
It is absurd to expect Judge Chikopa to conduct himself in a disinterested manner and deliver justice when the process that led to his appointment disregarded the rule of law.
A tribunal or without a tribunal the investigations and adjudication by Judge Chikopa will ‘rubber stamp’ a predetermined eventual end. With our eyes wide open we are watching Sata clandestinely rubbing off M’membe and Nchito’s onus to pay back the K14 billion they owe DBZ.
Personally, I am very happy with the actual existence of Sata’s practical bad leadership. He will give us a non-degree course on the difference between a bad and good leader. Sata’s wrecked leadership will also make us realise how good leadership is imperative to national development, and maybe change our course to vote intelligently.
In addition, I am ‘tragically very happy’ with Sata’s practical bad leadership as he is giving us a mirror to see how morally low we have sunk as a nation. Sata’s bad leadership is a reminder that we cannot develop without citizens ready to serve the country with integrity and action in the face of adversaries of the rule of law.
It is heartrending that institutions like the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ), the Church, Civil society organisations are in a ‘King Cobra’ induced political coma. They are not able to influence the political arena for the good of all citizens according to the dictates of their respective consciences. They are either eating from same high table with the ‘King Cobra’ or he has scared off their consciences out of their hearts and minds.
Where are the national values and virtues we claim to stand for? Is moral stature no longer an indisputable fundamental component of good citizens? The uncompromising dedication to the rule of law is the foundation of true service to our country.
It is through building the rule of law that makes it possible to have a good society where all are equal. Our silence even when the boat is sinking is unhealthy. The achievement of the rule of law is not automatic. It has to be worked for by us citizens.
We all have built-in needs and the ability to satisfy them. This is the reason we sometimes borrow billions of Kwachas from financial lending institutions like DBZ. However, it should not be at the expense of public funds, and the rule of law.
The rule of law only exists where citizens are fearless though sometimes they may find themselves in the teeth of antagonistic ruling elite forces. The fact is that no country will fight for us so that Sata and his allies can uphold the rule of law except ourselves.
Governments come and go. We should not allow them to destroy and go with the rule of law. Our actions should exhibit an unswerving loyalty, no matter how thuggish and hoodlumistic a government may be. A country with values is an indispensable moral pre-requisite for good citizenship.
Caution, they are many ruling elites masquerading as servants wanting to survive as parasites off their effort. Let us defend the rule of law against their murderous intentions.
We need our grand-scale stature that tower above government conspiracies and threats.
We may be brought down by our rivals, but not the values we stand for; the rule of law in our nation.