The suggestion by the Minister of Justice that, he and he alone truly understands the legality of the tenure of office by Acting Chief Justice Lombe Chibesakunda is very worrying.
It displays arrogance and a clear disregard of divergent opinion on a very critical matter of governance on which there should be universal agreement to ensure institutional integrity.
There should be no debate on sensitive governance positions, especially the judiciary which must command respect, dignity and universal acceptance.
It is not the role of Government to be confrontational even where the law clearly states a procedure that is enunciated and explained in the constitution.
The appointment of Judges is determined by a vetting procedure in Parliament. That procedure reposes authority in the National Assembly, to scrutinize and recommend ratification by the House.
Since the entire House cannot sit in the determination of the appointment of an individual office, the vetting function is reposed in a parliamentary select committee which scrutinizes the names presented by the President and determines if these are suitable.
In order to arrive at any decision the Committee calls for submissions and input from relevant institutions including professional bodies. In the case of the Chief Justice the Law Association of Zambia made an input into the finding of the select committee and advised the Committee that the Acting chief Justice was not a suitable candidate to be ratified as Chief Justice. This was the considered opinion of the association as a corporate body representing the legal fraternity in Zambia.
This position was affirmed at the last annual general meeting of the association in Livingstone and further re-affirmed and confirmed by the extra ordinary general meeting held I Lusaka.
In both occassions the debate was robust but ultimately consensus was reached and a decision made stating that it was untenable to appoint Ms. Chibesakunda to that position. This consensus creates both a legal and moral imperative against which Mr. Kabimba is fighting and in the process presenting the President as being insensitive, uncaring and most of all intransigent.
This image will not assist in the promotion of good governance as it appears to suggest that the executive has specific interest to protect that are extra judicial in nature and could therefore not be entrusted to any other judicial officer.
Equally the constitution states very clearly that in the absence of the Chief Justice the President may ask the deputy chief Justice to act as Chief Justice. The substantive deputy chief justice in this country is Justice Irene Mambilima who has not been asked to act. Instead we have an acting chief justice.
This situation alone combined with recent events in which the Minister of Justice expressed his angst and ire against the personalities at the Electoral Commission of Zambia consolidate and confirm the position that there is something very wrong going on.
It is therefore underrating the people of Zambia for one person to keep insisting on a position that is not defendable given that there is even a Supreme Court ruling which states that a retired Judge cannot serve on a contract in a position that is higher than that in which they originally served.
Our own position on that matter has always been very clear. We hold Judge Chibesakunda in very high esteem and would have wished that she retired without being embroiled in these very divisive issues in which the Cartel and other nefarious issues arise.