There is something patently wrong with the way judges are appointed in Zambia. The procedure for appointing judges gives room for the chief justice to create a cartel for her/himself in our judiciary. The latest appointment of high court judges simply shows how rotten the system is. Last week, a Parliamentary Select Committee was constituted to supposedly scrutinize the appointment of new High Court judges.
The individuals whose names have been put forward for scrutiny are Evaristo Pengele, Koreen Etambuyu Mwenda Zimba, Ruth Hachitapika Chibbabbuka, Kenneth Mulife, Wilfred Kopa, Godfrey Muma, Abha Patel, Bonaventure Chakwawa Mbewe and Kazimbe Chenda.
Looking at this list, one can only shed tears for mother Zambia. While two or three of these nominee judges can pass a proper integrity scrutiny, the rest are not fit to hold public office. Most of these people have been nominated to serve the interests of chief justice Irene Mambilima and her deputy Mwanamwambwa. The background is very simple; a good number of serving High Court judges have been very professional and have more integrity than Supreme Court office holders. High Court judges have to a large extent resisted the corruption obtaining at the three senior courts, that is, the Court of appeal, Constitutional Court and Supreme Court. It is therefore time for Mambilima and Mwanamwambwa to infiltrate the High Court with their corrupt puppets.
Well thought and reasoned judgments by high court judges in Zambia have been exposing the corruption at the senior Supreme Courts.
Why do we say the process of appointing judges gives the chief justice untrammelled powers to create a cartel in the judiciary?
Very simple. The constitution states that, ‘the President (Edgar Lungu) shall, on the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission and subject to ratification by the National Assembly, appoint the—(a) Chief Justice; (b) Deputy Chief Justice; (c) President of the Constitutional Court;(d) Deputy President of the Constitutional Court; and (e) other judges’.
There is something fishy with this provision. A casual reading suggests that it is the president who has powers to appoint judges. Not necessary. What this provision actually says is that the Judicial Service Commission nominates judges then gives the list to the president to forward to parliament. But then you know how great that joke you call parliament is, right? The provision above prohibits the president from selecting persons of his choice to be judges. Only the Judicial Service Commission has the powers to start the process. When the Judicial Service Commission has chosen the people, it wants to be judges, the commission gives the list to the president. The president can only work on the list he is given by the commission.
In case you doubt our narrative that it is the Judicial Service Commission that has prime power to appoint judges, look at how the Solicitor-General and others such as DPP, Attorney general are appointed. The constitution says, word for word, that ‘there shall be a Solicitor-General who shall be appointed by the President, subject to ratification by the National Assembly’. This provision gives the president powers to choose the Solicitor-General without prior approval of anyone. Only ratification by our wonderful parliament is required.
Well, but this being Zambia, anything is possible. It’s possible that after receiving the list, the president phones the commission chairperson to include his drink mates as well. That said, the initial powers to put someone of the list lies with the Judicial Service Commission.
Now, what is the Judicial Service Commission? The best way to answer that is to look at the people that make up the commission. According to judiciary on its website here
http://www.judiciaryzambia.com/introduction/ , the Judicial Service Commission is chaired by the Chief Justice, Irene Mambilima. Other members of the Commission include: a Supreme Court Judge, the Attorney General, The Solicitor General, A Member of Parliament, The Secretary to the Cabinet, A Legal Practitioner and President of the Law Association of Zambia, Eddie Mwitwa. Apart from the Secretary to the Cabinet and the MP (depends on who its is) the rest of the members of the commission are lawyers, people of a similar class. Can you expect objectivity in such a composition? All these people fear and salute the chief justice, so whatever she says in their meetings goes. Can you expect a person like Eddie Mwitwa to say ‘nyo’ to the chief justice? Funny enough, when the parliamentary committee is ‘scrutinizing’ the nominees, LAZ is one of key organisations that are required to submit.
So you can actually see that it is Mambilima and his deputy Mwanamwambwa who nominated these judges and gave the list to president Lungu to forward to parliament.
Otherwise, how do you explain the inclusion of scoundrels like Etambuyu Mwenda Zimba on that list? Etambuyu Mwenda Zimba is a person researcher and probably ‘side plate’ for deputy chief justice Mwanamwambwa. This is the woman Mwanamwambwa uses to carry out his terrorist work within the judiciary.
Why do you think senior and long serving magistrates have been left out in preference for this list comprising of questionable characters? Is the Judicial Service Commission telling us that the well-known resident and principal magistrates do not qualify to be appointed judges? Are these people really more suitable to be appointed judges than Judiciary registrar Charles Kafunda? What about Resident Magistrate David Simusamba who has been such a darling of PF? He is also not fit, or less qualified that Etambuyu Zimba?
Chief resident magistrate Joshua Banda is not fit to be appointed high Court judge? What about resident magistrate John Mbuzi? Principal Resident Magistrate Exornobert Zulu is not fit to be appointed judge for Mambilima to recommend people who have not been practicing law for a long time?
But we know why Mambilima and Mwanamwambwa want to dilute the high court with their fellow thieves. The two know that their day in court for the corruption they are involved in is coming? They know that a tribunal to probe them is coming. They want to make sure that when that time comes, they will be judged by their puppets.