Scrap defamation of President law

A petitioner has submitted that the defamation of the President law should be abolished because it has been abused to settle old scores by politicians.

Obed Mukwala of Chilenje made the suggestion yesterday to the Legal and Justice Sector Reform Commission chaired by Justice Fredrick Chomba during the public sitting in Chilenje Township.

“It is an archaic law which was imposed on us by colonialists and now it should be abolished. How many people are going to be arrested?

“In our country that law is used to settle old scores,” he said.

Mr Mukwala said it would be ideal for Zambia to abolish the defamation of the President law because other countries such as Zimbabwe have done away with the piece of legislation.

He said the defamation of the President should be replaced with legislation which would provide for paying of a fine.

Mr Mukwala, however, said he was aware that if the law was repealed, it would bring about some sort of chaos in the country hence the need for another law to take care of the situation.

“If someone defames the President, there should be a lesser punishment in form of  a fine rather than being sent to jail,” he said.

But Lee Habasonda, one of the commissioners, said he did not understand how authorities would control people who would want to maliciously defame the Head of State if the defamation of the President’s law was abolished.

Mr Mukwala also proposed that the wigs judges and lawyers wore should be discarded because they did not serve any purpose.

“Whether I wear a wig or not, I will still be a judge. If it is done away with it would not remove anything from me as a lawyer,” he said.

Mr Mukwala also said judges and lawyers should move with modern technology and stop carrying big bags when going to court.

He said the world had changed adding that even in churches, preachers were now using computers.

“I see in court like the High and Supreme Courts men of integrity always carrying big bags. They should be using modern technology like a PC to avoid those big bags they carry. To me, those bags scare people.

“The rest of the world is moving with technology. Why should the men in collar or lawyers carry such huge briefcases, it is a source of concern,” he said.

Mr Mukwala also said he found it surprising to hear that some cases that went up to the Supreme Court could be referred to the High Court for retrial.

He said the Supreme Court should be the court of appeal.

Another petitioner Brian Kuwema submitted that the Chief Justice should be appointed by an independent body of judges.

He said the judges should appoint the Chief Justices after interviewing all the applicants.

Mr Kuwema said if the President continued to appoint the Chief Justice, the public would always have a second thought about the independence of the office holder when executing certain tasks.

He also recommended that the Judiciary should introduce video cameras in court so that the public could learn about court procedures. Mr Kuwema said most of the people had challenges to follow procedures when they were taken to court and that once people had learnt about them through video recording, it would make the work of the judges and magistrates      easier.