President Michael Sata has been accused of compromising the Judiciary by allowing Justice Lombe Chibesakunda to act as Chief Justice for two years even after Parliament rejected her ratification.
A group of judges said the contract of acting Chief Justice was coming to an end next month and have wondered whether the President would extend her contract in order for her to continue acting as Chief Justice.
President Sata had given Justice Lombe Chibesakunda a two contract which was ending May 2014 as Supreme Court judge and subsequently appointed her acting Chief Justice.
The judges said it was shocking that the office of the Chief Justice had been vacant for two years while President Sata continued to ignore the rejection by parliament to ratify her.
They complained that an institution like the judiciary needed to be treated with the seriousness it deserved and that the status quo was sending a wrong signal to the spectators who will doubt the independence of the institution.
They said for the first time in the history of Zambia the office of the Chief Justice had remained unoccupied for two years since President Sata appointed Justice Lombe Chibesakunda in acting capacity.
They challenged the Head of State to clearly state why he has not appointed a substantive Chief Justice to replace Justice Chibesakunda who was rejected by all interested parties when she was being scrutinized by Parliament.
“We would like to remind President Michael Sata that the judiciary is one of the institutions in the country that should be treated with seriousness and having an acting Chief Justice for two years is something that we have all failed to believe. This situation raises a lot of concerns and the head of state should treat it with the seriousness it deserves.
“The President knows that he is creating a scandal by insisting that Justice Lombe Chibesakunda stays in that office even after knowing that she does not qualify. As judges we know who is qualified to hold that office and it is time that our sister makes a decision.
“ This inflexibility is not good especially that the Head of State has constituted the Legal and Justice Reform Commission which among other things is supposed to look at judicial reforms,” they said.
The justices further warned that it was not possible to attain meaningful judicial reforms when the highest office in the judiciary was involved in a scandal.
They said the Head of State should have exhibited support for judicial reforms by appointing a substantive Chief Justice instead of letting Justice Chibesakunda act for two years.
“We are waiting to see what the President is up to because we know what a scandal this is. There are a lot of men and women who qualify for that position and we wait to see what happens after May,” they said.