Monday 16 January 2012

Today's Post Editorial Is It In Order.

Is The Post In Order On the Editorial Below?

‘Reforms in the Judiciary' By The Post Mon 16 Jan. 2012, 14:00 CAT

WE would like to commend James Banda, president of the Law Association of Zambia, and his entire executive, for the courageous and honest position they have taken on the state of our Judiciary.Things must be called by their right names. This does not mean that we are speaking with hate, nor harshly about anyone. We should analyse, censure, criticise seriously all these things. It requires little intelligence - if a little is all one has - to realise that something has gone badly wrong with our Judiciary; things are not the way they should be. There is need for urgent reforms in our Judiciary. But as the Law Association of Zambia has correctly observed, no reforms can be meaningfully implemented with the current leadership of the Judiciary in place. We have for some time consistently questioned the integrity and capacity of the current leadership of our Judiciary. If one thought we had a personal issue with Chief Justice Ernest Sakala and some of his friends, then we are not the only ones because the entire Law Association of Zambia is with us. Things are out of control. There is something seriously wrong with the leadership of our Judiciary. And the buck stops at justice Sakala. The current leadership of the judiciary is not interested in meaningful or serious reforms of the institution. Justice Sakala doesn't seem to see that the Judiciary has much more bigger problems than funding or budgetary allocations. And it seems he doesn't like to hear anyone raising the issue of the integrity of our judiciary. We understand his sensitivities over this issue because he has single-handedly destroyed the integrity of our Judiciary. Justice Sakala has defended everything that is wrong about our Judiciary. He has exhibited a very high level of sensitivity and intolerance to criticism. But Zambians cannot stop talking about his destruction of this very important institution of our state. There are so many questionable decisions that have been carried out with his blessings and clear collusion. We challenge justice Sakala to take us on so that we can show everything wrong that he has done; we can show where his hand has been in all these wrong things that have come out of our Judiciary. Some of our judges, who are very close to justice Sakala, are not fit to be on our bench - they are criminals fit to be in prison. But they are protected and have been promoted because they have been doing wrong things on his behalf. We support the suggestion by the Law Association of Zambia to critically and systematically review some cases and judgments to determine whether or not the issues of capacity and competence arise. In some of these cases, it would be discovered that it is not even the issue of competence and capacity but of criminality. And justice Sakala knows all these things. He has not been promoting justice but injustice. Some of our best judges have been marginalised because they are not part of his league. Only those he is able to use or rather abuse have had it easy. There is a limit to how far one can run such an important public institution as if it is a personal kantemba. We agree with the conclusion of the Law Association of Zambia "that the Judiciary needs a new momentum and a breath of fresh air to carry the reforms which we will be suggesting forward. We are of the view that the current leadership of the Judiciary would find it difficult to embrace and carryout the reforms we will be proposing. Judicial reform invariably includes filling the Judiciary with forward-thinking, credible, competent judges and magistrates with integrity operating under clear and transparent rules without impunity and with secure tenure. The rules and laws of appointments and removal should be clear and not subject to manipulation by the Executive. To us, this is what judicial reform to a large extent entails". We support the demand by the Law Association of Zambia that "judges should not serve on contracts as this is inconsistent with judicial independence more so that the terms of those contracts are not known to the public". Justice Sakala, the Chief Justice of our Republic, is serving on a contract given to him single-handedly by Rupiah Banda. It is not difficult to see why justice Sakala's conduct was so much tilted in favour of Rupiah; why he could not even shake hands in church with then opposition leader Michael Sata. But the same justice Sakala today feels honoured to shake hands with Michael. Using his own words we ask: "Since when?" It's clear that justice Sakala has destroyed whatever independence our Judiciary had together with its integrity. There is no need for his contract to continue. We have no time to lose. We are a nation in a hurry to advance in so many ways. There is no need to wait until his contract finishes sometime after the middle of this year. And even just as a matter of personal integrity, justice Sakala should resign on his own, should realise that his time is over because he misbehaved and mismanaged things. There will not be room for impunity in this country anymore from anyone. As the Law Association of Zambia has aptly put it, "Whilst we are strong proponents of strong judicial independence, we are equally stronger proponents of judicial accountability. Judicial independence and judicial accountability are not inconsistent and can therefore co-exist. The Judiciary should not be ungovernable and elitist or untouchable. The old days of respectful deference and fearful silence have gone forever." This reminds us of the behaviour of our intelligence services before 2001. It became a conduit for stealing public funds in the belief that nobody would ever get to the bottom of what they were doing or question their thefts of public funds because intelligence expenses could not be questioned. There are some judges who think they can do anything, including using judgments to enrich themselves or to gain favours or promotions from politicians, thinking nobody will ever question what they have done. This will not continue to be so. We know what they did over the Chiluba acquittal. We also know what they did over the London High Court judgment registration. One day, justice Sakala and those working under him will have to answer for these things. The constitutional protection that our judges enjoy was not meant to be used in that way. It was meant to protect them from legitimate errors of judgment not from political connivance to evade the course of justice. We hope, from the position taken by the Law Association of Zambia, Michael's government will realise that there is something seriously wrong with our Judiciary that calls for immediate remedies in whichever way it is possible. Any unnecessary delay will cause more damage to the integrity of our Judiciary. We are not only calling for justice Sakala to go but on all those who have deliberately done wrong things because they too will be pursued without respite.

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