President Michael Sata has been accused of bowing to cartel pressure to transfer all independent judges from Lusaka to other provinces to pave way for more compliant adjudicators to handle controversial cases in favour of the cartel and PF government.
Judges, Lawyers and civil society have protested the transfers in which acting Chief Justice Lombe Chibesakunda whose controversial contract ends this month, has transferred all the judges that have handled high profile cases in which the cartel and government have lost out.
Judiciary public relations officer Terry Musonda confirmed the transfer of some judges from Lusaka but claimed that there was nothing sinister as the transfers were a normal routine that the acting Chief Justice was expected to carry out.
“As you can remember not long ago the President appointed some new judges who were sent to different parts of the country and the acting CJ also has the discretion to reshuffle judges. This is a normal procedure and judges will be expected to perform the same duties in their new stations,” Mr Musonda said.
Among the first casualties are Justices Mubanga Kondolo, Jane Kabuka, Dominic Sichinga and Anessi Bobo-Banda who have been ‘transferred’ from Lusaka to other outside locations.
Justice Sichinga is the judge who gave back former president Rupiah Banda ‘s Mpundu Trust after the state failed to prove that it contained stolen money.
And Justice Bobo and Judge Kabuka were the judges who returned RB’s passport while Justice Kondolo was the judge who blocked the mining in Lower Zambezi.
The transfers, they have charged were intended to weaken the judiciary, by removing experienced, seasoned and independent judges from Lusaka where most contentious cases involving government originated.
And civil rights activist Dante Saunders has condemned the move by the President saying that Zambia’s judiciary will never be independent because it was being run by preferred presidential appointees.
He said the changes will not have an effect in the operations of the judiciary as the transfers were done in order to increase performance and meet some challenges that were being faced in certain areas.
But Mr Saunders said the judiciary could no longer stand on its own as it was being controlled from outside.
He said it was unfortunate that the judiciary had no union to represent them as their representatives were hiding for fear of victimization.
“They don’t have a union to represent them so anyone can move them to whatever place they felt like even as a way of punishing them. There is no constitutional court that they can appeal to if they feel victimized.
“Where in the history of our country do you have a President who doesn’t want to hear the complaints of the people? We are witnessing dictatorship in full.
“Why does he still wants to control the judiciary, Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC), Anti-Corruption Commission and the Zambia Police? Let this be a good lesson to us but we know this is a passing phase,” Mr Saunders said.
The civil rights activist said it would be expensive on both the judiciary and the judges as they would be expected to travel to Lusaka each time they were required to attend to cases they had commenced.