The delays in appointing a substantive Chief Justice is a blow to the effectiveness of the judiciary in the country and a big challenge to judicial reforms, says Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP executive director MacDonald Chipenzi
Mr Chipenzi said the delay by government to bring about a new constitution was also another thorny issue that has contributed to the delays in reforms.
He said the insistence by President Michael Sata to keep acting Chief Justice Lombe Chibesakunda in that office after being rejected by the parliamentary Select Committee that was tasked to scrutinise her appointment as chief justice was a source of worry.
He said the decision by the President to maintain Justice Chibesakunda created the impression that she was the only one capable of doing and yet there were qualified men and women before the bar who could take up the job.
“As FODEP we call upon the president to move with haste and appoint a chief justice because the judiciary would incur more damage and the cost would be more difficult to repair.
“This insistence by Mr Sata will cost the country dearly because the acting chief justice may make mistakes in handling certain issues within the judiciary because she thinks Mr Sata was ok with her when actually it’s the constitution that says she does not qualify.
“Can a Chief Justice be appointed to avoid what is currently happening in the judicial circles? Mr Sata has no choice but to follow what the people of this land have spoken,” said Chipenzi.
For close to a year now, the judiciary had been operating without a substantive chief justice and President Sata instead appointed Justice Lombe Chibesakunda to act in that position.
Judge Chibesakunda is disqualified by the Constitution from holding that office.
Different sectors of society including the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) have asked the President to appoint a substantive chief justice in order to quicken the process for judicial reforms.