Judicial reforms

NOW that a substantive Chief Justice has been put in place, it is time for the office holder, Justice Irene Mambilima, to put the judiciary reform process in motion and if it is already in motion, add some momentum.

This is because although the wheels of justice in Zambia do turn, they are painfully slow and expensive, especially for the poor.

We are happy that Justice Mambilima was alive to this fact when she was being sworn-in last week.

She said she would immediately get down to work and address challenges of delayed justice as a result of inadequate personnel.

But that is not the only problem with our judicial system. It is not well known to the people in terms of functioning.

Apart from the local court system which is famous for divorce cases, other misdemeanours rarely find themselves in courts of law.

The conventional judicial process in Zambia is also perceived to be for the elite as they have the financial power to hire expensive lawyers resulting in the poor shunning the courts of law as  the avenue for justice when they are aggrieved.

While we note that there has been an improvement in the delivery of justice at the High Court, this is not the case in the Supreme Court and the Industrial Relations Court.

We also have Legal Aid Board which was supposed to help the poor who have legal challenges but many who have passed have no kind words for the institution.

Coming to the Supreme Court , there are multiple documents to submit on appeal which is not a cheap process as lawyers have to be engaged.

Then there is the shortage of manpower in the judiciary, especially on the bench.

This is not restricted to Lusaka as many districts do not have sitting magistrates or judges.

This is even worse in the area of Industrial Relation as many Zambians are unfairly dismissed but cannot seek court redress because of non-existence of labour courts.

Indeed, Justice Mambilima has a lot to do to make the judiciary approachable and friendly.

But this is not the only area of concern as there are so many suspects who spend many months or years in Police custody awaiting trial because of lack of inadequate manpower on the bench.

Others spend many years waiting for their appeals in court only to be acquitted.

Justice Mambilima should find a way of checking on his men and women of the bench so justice is not only done but also seen to be done in an efficient and timely manner.

The Chief Justice should not disappoint the people and the parliamentarians who unanimously ratified her appointment.

Looking back at her previous assignment at the Electoral Commission of Zambia, we believe she has come to make the difference.

Categorized | Editorial

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