Former Transport Minister William Harrington has refused to meet the acting Chief Justice Lombe Chibesakunda after she requested to have a private meeting with him last week instead of constituting a tribunal to investigate Tourism and Arts Minister Sylvia Masebo.
This meeting was in relation to the request he made to the Chief Justices to constitute a tribunal to investigate the alleged misconduct of Ms Masebo over the ZAWA saga .
Mr Harrington said in a letter written to Justice Chibesakunda he explained that he received verbal invitation for a meeting in the Justice’s chambers while he was in Senanga via telephone from his secretary.
He said according to his secretary he had been asked to attend the meeting with his lawyers while the acting Chief Justice was expected to be accompanied by two Judges from the Supreme Court.
Mr Harrington told Justice Chibesakunda that he had met the requirements for an appointment of the tribunal as prescribed under the Parliamentary and Ministerial Code of Conduct Cap. 16 of the Laws of Zambia.
“Having studied and consulted on the Act, I wish to state that I have seen no provision that gives the chief justice discretionary powers to conduct an informal sieving process for whatever reason upon receipt of a complaint from any person pursuant to part iv of the Act.
“I believe the jurisdiction and obligation of the chief justice is limited to notifying the President of the Republic of Zambia and thereafter to formally constitute a Tribunal.
This is of course only after observing all the requisite statutory provisions relating to the taking of Oaths etc and where the applicant adduces evidence that the allegations upon which the applicant is made are not frivolous and vexatious.
“In this regard I wish to remind My Lady that a good legal precedent has been set when the immediate past and now retired Hon chief justice Ernest Sakala appointed the 2009/10 Dennis Chirwa- led tribunal in the matter of the minister of the then Minister of Communications and Transport,” read part of the letter to Justice Chibesakunda in parts. Mr Harrington further said the Chief Justice was no doubt aware that this matter had now attracted much public and indeed national interest.
He said the judicial wing of government was today at crossroads to reform and that the matter at hand should be seen as a litmus test as to whether the judiciary was willing, ready and able to dispense justice in a fair, transparent and timely manner as it is now over two months since the submission of the application.
“With all due respect to your office therefore, it is my considered view that this is a matter warranting a public hearing as opposed to hearing in chambers as apparently being proposed.
“The avenue being proposed by your office does not in my honest opinion provide for guarantee affair, transparent and timely investigative process. What is also of my concern is that the general public have been following this matter with great intensity would be forgiven to suspect that I have opted for some sort of “negotiated settlement”. Her said on his part he would maintain his legitimate position to apply for appointment of an open tribunal as provided by law as opposed to a “closed door” arrangement which he was uncomfortable with for fear of being misunderstood.
Mr Harrington said in the interest of progress, he would be comforted to know whether the chief justice would appoint a tribunal or not for he had already provided necessary documentary and recorded evidence of a prima facia case against Ms Masebo.
He said that he would consider other options if his quest for justice was not achieved.