A titanic legal battle is looming as 18 law firms stand to defend acting Chief Justice Lombe Chibesakunda who has been taken to court by the Law Association Zambia (LAZ) which has challenged her continued stay in office.
LAZ wants the acting chief justice to vacate her office as she had reached retirement age and therefore could not be appointed acting Chief Justice a position which was higher than the one on which she had retired.
But the 18 law firms led by Ellis and Company’s Bonaventure Mutale former Attorney General and President Michael Sata’s lawyer argued that the President can ask someone to act for seven years and Chibesakunda has not acted for that long.
The 18 law firms yesterday filed a conditional memorandum of appearance in the Lusaka High Court notifying the court that they would represent the embattled acting chief justice.
This follows last month’s protest march by the lawyers against the continued stay of justice Chibesakunda at the helm of the Judiciary.
The association through the litigation committee chairperson Abudi Shonga filed the statement of claim with three grounds under which they are demanding the removal of the justice.
The claims were against the Attorney General as first respondent and Justice Chibesakunda as the second respondent.
The lawyers claimed that there had been a serious breach of the constitution provisions in regard with the appointment of Justice Chibesakunda as Supreme Court Judge and acting Chief Justice.
In his first ground, Shonga said Justice Chibesakunda had reached retirement age and therefore could not be appointed Chief Justice.
He said in his statement of claim that even if article 98 (i) (b) of the constitution allowed the President to extend the Judges term of office by seven years, the law stipulated that such a person could not hold a higher office than he or she had previously held.
Shonga stated in his statement of claim that even if Justice Chibesakunda had her contract extended by President Sata, the law stipulated that such a contract could not be extended twice.
The lawyers said Justice Chibesakunda had been holding office of and performing the functions of Supreme Court Judge from the date of her appointment in May 2012.
He further said the purported appointment of Justice Chibesakunda as Chief Justice was unlawful as the acting Chief Justice was and did not qualify to be appointed owing to the fact that she was older than 65 years as at the date of the purported appointment.
As a result the lawyers claimed that the re-appointment of Justice Chibesakunda as Acting Chief Justice was null and void and therefore should with immediate effect vacate the office of the Supreme Court Judge.
The law firms representing the acting Chief justice would be led by Bonaventure Mutale of Ellis and company and include among others SBN and company, Sam Chisulo and company, KBM and company, HH Ndhlovu and company, Mutemwa, and company, Mwangela and company while the LAZ was being represented by 12 law firms led by Central Chambers and others were Muleza and company, and Lisimba and advocates were representing the association.