On March 4, 2010, Parliament ratified the appointments of six judges. In supporting the appointments, long serving Chongwe MP Sylvia Masebo condemned the Post newspaper and people who publicly attack judges. Sylvia Masebo is now one of the people attacking the judiciary in public.
Below is what happened and what Masebo said:
Ms Imbwae: I beg to move that this House do adopt the report of the Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to scrutinise the presidential appointments of Hon. Judge Just Mwiinde Siavwapa, Hon. Judge Emelia Phiri-Sunkutu, Dr Patrick Matibini, Sc, Mr Isaac Chibulu Tantameni Chali, Mrs Elita Phiri Mwikisa and Mrs Fulgency Mwenya Chisanga to serve as Puisne Judges, for the Fourth Session of the Tenth National Assembly, laid on the table of the house on 1st march, 2010.
Mr Speaker, I thank you.
Hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mrs Masebo (Chongwe): Mr Speaker, I quickly want to add my voice in support of the appointments, especially that we have women as the majority. As we are commemorating International Women’s Day on Monday, next week, this comes as a very good gift to the womenfolk, especially that we are talking about equal opportunities, equal rights and progress for all. The House may be aware that the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Report of November, 2009, indicated that Zambia was not doing very well in terms of equal opportunities for women, especially when it came to issues of recruitment, promotion and wages.
Mr Speaker, I want to say that it is gratifying to learn that we are now able to attract lawyers from the private sector who we could not in the past because we were told that when they are in the private sector they are more exposed and paid better wages because they making their own money. This is a positive sign that the Government is, indeed, doing well in terms of ensuring that working conditions for our Judges are improved upon to an extent that we are now able to attract lawyers from the private sector.
Mr Speaker, I want to add something on a matter that was alluded to by the seconder of the motion with regard to the integrity of the judicial system. There are three arms of the Government. One of the important organs of the Government is the Judiciary. This is where, at the end of the day, everybody, whether an individual citizen, someone from the Executive or Legislature runs to whenever there is a problem. When such institutions begin to be seen as if they are not free and fair, then we are killing our own country. I think that this issue needs to be taken very seriously by the Judiciary and the general public.
Mr Speaker, some two weeks ago, I was very disappointed when I read, in one of the papers, a headline targeted at the Judiciary that both shocked and saddened me. When we reach a level where citizens can stand publicly and almost insult the Judiciary and call it names in that manner, then we know we have a problem. This is a very serious problem that all of us need to address.
Mr Speaker, I have always said, and I want to repeat the fact this, that it very important that, as a country, we respect the institutions that we create because, if we do not, the negative effect will not only be on those that are, for instance, in the Ruling Party, Opposition, politics, private sector or the Church but the whole nation. We need to build institutions and respect them. Even if one or two people make mistakes, it is important that we do not generalise those mistakes because we can destroy a system which, in this case, is the Judiciary.
If people start thinking that the Zambian Judiciary is rotten and corrupt simply because one person made a mistake, that is a very dangerous kind of approach.
Mr Speaker, as I have always said, it is important that we respect our institutions. By saying this, I do not mean that the Judiciary should not work hard to ensure that it builds its face and credibility because it is necessary for it to do that.
Justice is not about the result in court, as there is a theory in the judicial system that states that, “It is not about winning or losing a case, but about the spirit of people feeling that justice is or has prevailed”. Therefore, the concept of the feeling that justice is prevailing is important. As such, the Judiciary has a job to ensure that people begin to perceive it in a manner that instills confidence.
In the past, we did not meet Judges in person, but just saw them on pictures. Lately, one can meet them anywhere, including taverns. That is a problem. If one went to a club or gymnasium, he or she can, sometimes, meet Judges there. These are some of the things that erode confidence in some of them. Therefore, it is important that they isolate themselves from the public.
In the past, even just talking to a Judge was not easy because if they were seen talking to me, for instance, it would be insinuated that I was trying to influence them. Therefore, they would avoid doing that altogether. However, at the moment, there is a lot of chibeleshi between the public and Judges.
Mrs Masebo: Chibeleshi means easy contact or over familiarity which breeds contempt. Therefore, it is up to the Judges to do something about this over familiarity so that they are kept away from the public who may say that they saw a Mr ‘X’ and Judge ‘Y’ talking when there was a case before Mr X and, thus conclude that that was the reason the ruling in court was in favour of that person. Therefore, we all need to do a lot to try and build confidence in the Judiciary.
Mr Speaker, personally, as an hon. Member of Parliament, I still have confidence in the judicial system and would like to urge the country to have confidence in their institutions. Indeed, like every other situation, you cannot have 100 per cent perfection. Even among Jesus’ disciples, there was one who betrayed him, but it cannot be said that all his disciples were double faced or were Judas Iscariots. Therefore, even in the judicial system, there may be one who may not be morally upright, but that is not to say that all of them are. In essence, what I am saying is that we have to be very careful about the way we say things concerning the judiciary because the manner in which we describe rulings or comment on judgments after winning or losing court cases has the potential to destroy the system.
Lastly, but most importantly, I am happy because, now, we have more women getting on board. I for one know that women are normally better, more honest …
Hon. Members: Question!
Mrs Masebo: … and very credible. Therefore, I can assure the country that with more women in the judicial system, we shall be comforted, knowing that since we have mothers on the Bench, justice shall prevail.
I thank you Mr Speaker.