The appointment of Wynter Kabimba as Minister of Justice will be received with mixed feelings. As Secretary-General of the ruling patriotic Front Wynter was seen as a zealous party ideologue and party functionary who is unlikely to shed his penchant for matters political to the self effacing function of an impartial public officer that the Minister of Justice should be.
Unless something happens to the contrary there will be real fears that he will use the position to advance party interests by exacting retribution on the opposition.
In addition it is not difficult to suggest that Wynter may indeed use the position to strengthen his hand within the party hierarchy as well as in dealing with recalcitrant media.
The onus is on Wynter to distance himself from the cartel and other negative influences. It is really up to him to win the confidence of the Zambian people by embracing the national rather than party-political agenda.
There is no question that Wynter comes to the Ministry at a critical time.
Our criminal justice system is already politicized and highly compromised and enjoys very little faith internally least of all externally.
The very fact that only high profile political cases appear to be a specialty and favorite pass time of our law enforcement agencies, has led to the firm belief that there is no political will to fight the ever rising crime rate in the country.
We have witnessed horrendous and unprecedented levels of crime the brutality of which has never been seen before. More and more Zambians are taking the law into their own hands as the criminal justice system appears lethargic and at worst insensitive to crime affecting the ordinary people.
It is for this reason that outbreaks of communal violence have become the main stay of settling perceived wrong doing. The recent rioting on the Copperbelt in which four people were killed in a grisly manner, over alleged satanic practices, the beating to death of suspects in many other parts of the country must be a cause of concern as they are eroding the confidence the public must hold in state law enforcement. Equally, the impunity exhibited by the Mailoni brothers who have been on the run from the law for so many years suggests that our law enforcement system does not act unless it is a political case.
That is why the new appointment will be viewed by many people as a measure intended to extend further the politicization of the justice system in the country considering that the patriotic front manifesto subordinates all functions to the central committee of the party.
Indeed the central committee disciplinary mechanism is supposed to extend to the judiciary and other sections of governance.
It will be a tragedy if occasion is taken of this appointment to further weaken the position of the judiciary through the various processes that have already been initiated. It will be a great tragedy because Zambians will not only be frustrated but may ultimately lose confidence in the leadership and vote with their feet.
If indeed this appointment is meant to engender and improve the estranged working relationship with the Judiciary, a lot more will be required to gain confidence in view of recent events which have undoubtedly raised hackles.