President Michael Sata has insisted on appointing acting chief Justice Lombe Chibesakunda as Chief Justice totally disregarding objections from the legal fraternity including the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ).
At its last general meeting in Livingstone, LAZ resolved to reject the nomination of Justice Chibesakunda.
However following instructions from the President last week Parliament constituted a ten man select committee to scrutinise and recommend to the National Assembly the ratification of Judge Chibesakunda.
The Committee was supposed to commence sitting yesterday, but at its initial sitting members objected noting the constitutional, legal and jurisdictional issues confronting them and decided to suspend the sitting because the appointment was untenable.
They proposed that another name of a suitable judge who qualified should be submitted.
The President, it was reported refused to submit another name. He instructed the Speaker of the National Assembly Dr. Patrick Matibini to proceed with Judge Chibesakunda’s nomination.
Subsequently the speaker met with some members of the select committee to explain the predicament.
The committee relented and was scheduled to start hearing witnesses yesterday.
However NAREP President Elias Chipimo said the appointment was unconstitutional and that parliament had no jurisdiction to determine the candidature of a person that has already passed the retirement age for judges as set out in the Constitution.
He added that the Supreme Court had already made a ruling to the effect that a retired Judge could not be promoted above the rank from which they retired.
The major concern is that a judge on contract served at the pleasure of the President on conditions and circumstances dictated by the President and did not enjoy the same protection of tenure of office provided for substantive judges in the Constitution.
The select committee is puzzled as to why President Sata insisted on having Justice Chibesakunda promoted when the law was very clear on the matter.
Asked for comment, President Sata’s spokesman George Chellah said he was not aware of the appointment and said it was untrue.
“It sounds speculative as usual and would leave us to speculate”
Government spokesman Kennedy Sakeni was more definitive. He denied that the president had ever made such an appointment.