The Heritage Party condemns the increasing political intolerance by the PF regime as evidenced by the latest assault on some journalists; we believe that this is aimed at intimidating citizens in general and journalists in particular. We urge Zambians to continue to raise their voices openly whenever they have issues with the government and speak out wherever they may be: on the road as they walk, in buses, in liberated newspapers and radio stations and even at churches, for our nation is under siege not from an external force but from our own elected government. Debate must continue as it is the civilised way to express views rather than throwing stones.
On 3rd July I stated that if the Executive does not rectify the omission regarding the appointment of a substantive Chief Justice, the controversy will not go away. I further speculated about a possible ambush without elaborating; this I now do.
Firstly the Executive, and especially the President, have no justifiable reason to complain if we speculate, rightly or wrongly, because they have refused or neglected to engage the people of Zambia directly via a press briefing. Instead of answering questions the Government are silencing journalists by raiding their homes, searching them, detaining and arresting them for highly questionable offences. The Government must respond truthfully to the issues being raised unless they have something to hide. Arresting journalists does NOT answer the question nor solve the problem.
In a democracy debate is healthy; in a democracy it is imperative and even civilised to debate rather than wield machetes; if the PF people do not want to debate that is up to them but they must NOT stifle the people’s voices through intimidation, arrests, violence, one-sided propaganda in the public media and/or even shutting down of online news media. In fact a presidential press briefing is another type of dialogue, putting the President in front of the mirror to be quizzed, cross-examined, and even “harassed” until he answers truthfully! Since he has avoided the press and citizens, we are free to speculate.
The insistence to keep an unqualified judge to act as Chief Justice suggests that the President may be scheming to pull a fast one (ambush) thus: Article 93 (1) provides for the appointment by the President of the Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice and other Supreme Court judges. However the provision makes the submitted name subject to ratification by the National Assembly. Article 44 (4) provides guidance on the said ratification. My reasoned speculation is based on this Article 44 (4).
When the President submits a name for the first time to the National Assembly and that name is rejected, the President may submit ANOTHER name which is still subject to ratification. If this is also rejected, the President is free to submit a third name, but if this third name is also rejected it shall take effect irrespective of the refusal by the National Assembly. This is where the ambush could take place, especially if the MPs are sleeping.
A scheming President can deliberately submit the name of an unqualified person expecting that name to be rejected (or even arranging to have it rejected if he has the numbers among the MPs). On the third occasion he would then submit the name he really wants. This may seem far-fetched but it is highly possible in this scenario where the Executive are flouting our Constitution and other laws with impunity (visit poaching of MPs and vehement denials of campaign promises).
I contend that Article 44 (4) must be interpreted to mean that the counting of the number of submissions should only commence when a qualified name has been submitted. That is to say, in the case of the current Acting Chief justice who is constitutionally barred from being nominated and even acting after six months, we should count that submission as zero submission, until a qualified name is submitted. Then there will be no ambush.
I once again urge the President to submit a qualified name which meets all the requirements of the Constitution and other relevant laws. Mr President, the ball is in your court!
[11th July 2013]