The Law Association of Zambia strongly condemns the statement issued by the Secretary-General of the Patriotic Front, Mr. Davies Chama in which he castigates the Honourable Mr. Justice Mwila Chitabo, S.C for allegedly overturning the decision of His Excellency President Edgar Lungu to set up the Tribunal to probe the Director of Public Prosecution, whom the President had suspended. In his statement Mr. Chama has classified the decision of the Honourable Judge as illegal and as being disrespectful of the Constitution by openly showing contempt to the President, among other things.
At the outset, LAZ is mindful of the emotive dimension that the matter involving the DPP has taken, going by the wide press coverage on the case, and of the frustration by many in the Country who would like to see an expeditious end to unfortunate matter. On its part LAZ is on record as having guided the Nation in its Press Statement of the 13th day of February 2015, in which we stated that LAZ would like to see full compliance with the provisions of the Constitution which regulates the procedure for the removal of a DPP from office. Following the decision of His Excellency the President to constitute the Tribunal in accordance with article 58(3) of the Constitution, LAZ was satisfied that the correct forum for dealing with this matter was used as contemplated by the Republican Constitution.
However, the remarks made by Mr. Chama of and about the Honourable Judges of the High Court for Zambia Justices Mwila Chitabo, S.C and Isaac Chali in a court case that is on-going have caused LAZ deep concern. The totality of the statements by Mr. Chama, as a person occupying such a high Office in the hierarchy of the party in Government are inflammatory, unacceptable, uncalled for and are an assault on constitutionalism, the rule of law and due process that must apply in a constitutional democracy like Zambia. The fact that this statement has been made by the ruling party, of which the Republican President is the President and whom is himself a lawyer, is further cause for grave concern. This open attack on the person of the Honourable Judge is a direct affront to independence of the Judiciary which all well-meaning citizens have a duty to protect.
In taking this position, LAZ is not suggesting that citizens should be forbidden from commenting on the decisions of Judges once court cases are concluded. However, where such comment is allowed to take the form of attacks on the members of the Superior Courts of our Judicature, a duty arises not only on the part of LAZ but also on the part of all other members of the public who would like to see a thriving democracy in the Country nourished by a judiciary which is both independent and accountable to rise to the protection of Judicial Officers who cannot speak for themselves. The public may wish to be reminded that by the very nature of their appointment, training and orientation, Judicial Officers are often unable to protect themselves against public comments touching upon the conduct of their Office.
As we have done on previous occasions, LAZ wishes to give timely counsel not only to the leaders of the party in Government but also to all other users of judicial services, including the other wings of Government, to jealously guard the independence of our Judiciary by eschewing commentary that personally attacks judicial officers. Further, LAZ would add that Mr. Chama’s quest to cite the unfortunate examples of Mr. Justice Anthony Nyangulu and Mr. Justice James Skinner, which are a scar on the history of the judiciary, to give credence to his argument is very worrying indeed. In particular the reference to the hounding out of office of Justice Skinner by former President Kenneth Kaunda is unacceptable and extremely unfortunate for the Country, which has scored some marked progress in entrenching the principles of separation of powers and independence of the judiciary, since the days of the One Party State. To have such high ranking officers of the ruling party as the Secretary-General even suggesting a possibility of the events that characterized the departure of Mr. Justice Skinner could repeat themselves is regrettable. On this basis, LAZ strongly condemns Mr. Chama’s attack on the High Court Judges and calls upon all well meaning Zambians to join LAZ in condemning this manifestly wrong approach to airing grievances against Judges and indeed any constitutional office holder. We ask all stakeholders in the justice delivery system to take a keen interest in the threats that he has issued against these high judicial officers.
It is manifestly clear that the statements by Mr. Chama are being made in the main, out of ignorance of the law and procedure for challenging real or apparent grievances relating to the manner in which Judicial Officers handle cases that they are assigned to preside over. In order that such misfortunes are avoided, LAZ strongly urges the Acting Attorney-General to give guidance to the Government on the legal avenues available to it in redressing any grievances that he may have against Justice Chali and/or Justice Chitabo in the manner they have handled the matter of the DPP, particularly as the matter is still in court.
We wish to conclude by restating that the involvement of LAZ in the matter concerning the DPP is motivated solely by the need to guide the Nation and, in particular, the people directly involved in the matter of the removal of the DPP to ensure that there is due process in addressing this matter. We call on the Government not to abrogate the Constitution, the rule of law and due process. LAZ will defend any violation of these tenets of our democracy with vigor and determination.
PRESIDENT – LAZ