Supreme Court in crisis

THE Supreme Court is in a crisis and morale at its lowest ebb.

Some judges feel the Supreme Court has been compromised and polarized by political appointments and have accused Parliament of rubber stamping appointments which in normal circumstances should have been questioned.

“How can you have a Supreme Court judge who has never written a single judgement or served on the bench of a lower court and yet Parliament allowed the ratification of such a judge?” the judges questioned.

They said there was need for a complete overhaul of the judiciary if it had to restore its lost confidence for Zambians to trust as some judges were alleged to have been sponsored by the cartel to protect their own interests.

And Zambian Voice executive director Chilufya Tayali said it was unfortunate that President Michael Sata had allowed the Acting Chief Justice Lombe Chibesakunda to serve at the helm of the judiciary on acting capacity for a period longer than she was required.

He said the whole judicial system was in a mess because the Patriotic Front had failed to restore order by failing to find a substantive Chief Justice because Justice Chibesakunda had been rejected.

He said at the moment some judgments were questionable as no judgment had been delivered against the ruling party and that the judges serving on the bench were highly compromised.

“We have judges that are highly compromised as they are there to serve the interests of the appointing authority. This should not be the case as judges are expected to earn their appointments with respect. Supreme and High court judges should serve on merit and these must be people that had served long in the judicial system. Some judges do not deserve to be there because of their political affiliation,” he said.

Mr Tayali said it was a pity that there were only a few judges serving with integrity but they were finding it difficult to work because of the compromised cadre of the bench.

He said even the once vibrant Judicial Complaints Commission was now toothless as there was nothing the commission was doing to restore integrity in the judiciary.

He said concerned citizens had complained before the commission about certain judges but there was nothing it had done to this effect.

“There are cases that we can point to and this is not from without. Some judges need to leave the bench and there is need for quality on the bench. This scenario at the Supreme Court was worrying as some of them had never presided over any matter before,” Tayali said.

And political activist Dante Saunders said political patronage was destroying the judicial system that the country would live to regret.

Mr Saunders said if Government did not rectify the wrongs in the judiciary, a lot of citizens would be slapped with framed charges while those with intent for economic sabotage would continue to plunder national resources and be left scot-free.

He said it was sad that the people who were supposed to abide by the law were showing arrogance on straight forward issues.

Mr Saunders said the Zambian people were eager to recover sanity in the judiciary, because it was where the helm of the law was.

He said it was unacceptable that people were politically appointed in such institutions and not based on merit. “How possible is it that one can see professionalism there, when the individuals who were appointed do not even understand what was involved,” he said.

He said the judiciary was leading the country into a crisis by not conforming to the law, considering that it was one of the institutions which the citizens should have trust in, but instead had individuals that were not qualified to be in those offices.

Mr Saunders said it was for this reason the release of the Constitution was vital to ensure the wishes of the people were enshrined in the document, adding that powers of the appointing authority by the executive must be removed.

He claimed that the judiciary, ACC, DEC and many other institutions were compromised because they worked under instructions from the executive, making it difficult to exhibit professionalism.

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