A moral judgment

Technically the state has won the case against the three Judges who won a High Court Judicial Review against their suspension and subsequent establishment of a Tribunal to investigate their conduct.
This was to be expected.
Predictably the Supreme Court has skirted around the technical issues to present a moral judgment which the President is unlikely to ignore at the pain of appearing to disregard the highest judicial institution in the land.
It is also therefore only proper for Judge Chikopa to listen to the unsaid words and heed the admonition of the Supreme Court before he decides to preside over a tribunal which his colleagues in the legal fraternity have advised against in the most civil but definitive manner possible.
From the start it was most unlikely that the Acting Chief Justice Lombe Chibesakunda and Her Deputy Justice Florence Mumba would have ruled against the President. It is the surprising decision of the other two judges namely Justices Gregory Phiri and Munyinda Wankie that is intriguing.
In their collective wisdom the Judges have delivered their rebuke against what many saw as a clear case of state interference in the Judiciary by a clique that is looming larger than life over affairs of state.
At the same time the court sought to maintain the dignity and gravitas of the Presidency and therefore in national interest, magnanimity and national unity and indeed good order they advised that the Tribunal should not take place.
The ruling provides an opportunity for the contending parties to take solace in the double edged sword that has justified both sides.
The ruling takes the sting out of a very divisive and acrimonious matter that had the potential of harming the standing and credibility of the Supreme Court and by implication the entire judiciary because feelings were running high.
Many Zambians were uncomfortable and some were totally discomfited that a foreign High Court Judge was appointed to investigate the conduct of a Supreme Court Judge and two High Court Judges.
Our own position has always been that while the president had constitutional powers to set-up a tribunal, this should have been within the remit of the law, namely through the Judicial Complaints Authority which he appoints.
It seemed improper that the President should set up a Tribunal at the behest of a party to court proceedings in matters involving K14billion obtained by fraudulent misrepresentation from the Development Bank of Zambia.
The very fact that the Judges were being suspended over a matter that was before the Supreme Court on appeal sounded very questionable and at worst a form of collusion intended to subvert the course of justice.
High Court Judge Nigel Mutuna had already passed judgment in the matter and the only logical progression was an appeal in the Supreme Court and not through a Tribunal constituted by the President.
We have always stated that all the Zambian people are equal before the law and none should enjoy any special favours to circumvent due process.
It is our hope that the President will heed the advice of the Supreme Court and act according to their combined wisdom.  He is of course at liberty to ignore the advice and let the Tribunal sit with all the attendant consequences.

Categorized | Editorial

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