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Zambia: Judge Suspensions Unfold into Embarrassing Drama

The suspension of one Supreme Court Judge and two high court judges and setting up of a tribunal to investigate their conduct by President Michael Sata is slowly but surely turning into an embarrassing drama.

A day after President Sata swore in the tribunal headed by Malawi high court judge Lovemore Chikopa, Zambian high court judge, Flugence Chisanga, ruled against it in an injunction in a move that inevitably pitted the judiciary against the executive.

President Sata swears in Malawian Judge Lovemore Chikopa

President Sata swears in Malawian Judge Lovemore Chikopa to head the tribunal probing three Zambian judges. Picture courtesy of State House via Zambian Watchdog

Ms Justice Chisanga said:

Upon hearing counsel for the applicants and reading the affidavits of Judges Mutuna and Kajimanga respectively, it is hereby ordered that the applicants be and are hereby granted leave to apply for judicial review.

And it is further ordered that the leave so granted shall operate as a stay of the decisions of his Excellency the President to appoint a tribunal, to suspend the applicants and any adverse measures against the applicants in relation to the performance of their Constitutional duties as duly appointed Puisne Judges pending determination of this matter or further direction by this court.

Justice Minister, Sebastian Zulu, quickly issued a statement that was placed on the state house website saying the judiciary was panicking, ordering the Solicitor-General to overturn the ruling:

I have ordered the solicitor General to immediately have that stay revoked on the ground that under section 16 of the state proceedings Act. An Injunction may not be granted against the state.”
“An Order of stay is in fact a mandatory injunction which is ordering that the  tribunal should not take off, That is what the law does not allow. It (law) doesn't allow such an order as far as I a[m] concerned.

Zulu also told a press briefing that the court’s decision was illegal and amounted to a direct attack on the president’s decision.

One of the three suspended judges, High Court Judge Philip Musonda. Photo courtesy of statehouse.gov.zm.

Ruling in the matter after the application by the State to have the injunction against the tribunal dismissed was set for hearing on May 24.

The matter also engulfed the Chief Justice whom the University of Zambia Students Union called upon to step down.

Netizens have followed this matter keenly on social media forums.

Ms Justice Chisanga won kudos for her courage. Commenting on a related post on Zambian Watchdog, Solicitor wrote:

What a galant lady this Chisanga is she. Fearless and sticks to then law without looking at who is involved. this how judiciary should be. The weak judges must learn from this judge who can’t succumb to executive presure. I hope she will be the next chief justice after [Enerst Sakala] as she will uphold the rule of law. Pf cadres on blogging should stop trivializing such bluntant abuse of eecutive powers by its president and some of those in his party. Zambia doesn’t belong to MCS nor to his party and the likes of membe and Nchitos but to all of us.We need a relaible judicial system which will defend the rights of fair justice for every one without looking at the faces of those involved and this is what lady Chisanga has just demonstrated…

MUKUKA MBULU – AYANGA NA MAKA on the development under the same story wrote, wrote:

The measure of any Judiciary is whether it can stand the pressure from the Executive and in this case Judge Chisanga has more than redeemed the Juciary. The measure of any corruption fight is whether you can confront and arrest not just your enemies but also your friends and in this case Mr. Sata has failed completely by refusing to confront his friends to compel them to pay back the K14bn owed to DBZ or even to talk about it. Contrast this to what the President would have said and done if the K14bn was owed by Henry Banda. The Corruption fight is DEAD because it is targeted only at enemies and this case proves it. Thank you Judge Chisanga. The coutry owes you the same way it owes Christon Tembo who gave up the Vice Presidency of Zambia to fight the Chiluba Third term bid while the same Mr. Sata was supporting Chiluba.

In one exchange between two tweeps, the following was gleaned:

@munshyamunshya: My advice to Zulu & Co. don't pick a fight with the entire judiciary.

@imatambo: @munshyamunshya: are the supreme court judges above the law? In the interest of separation of powers they should be checked by the executive

@munshyamunshya: @imatambo No, judges aren't above law. And so when they are corrupt you report them to ACC and Judicial Complaints commission!

One sceptic tweep doubted the authenticiy of the judicial review:

@sandaykc: @Zambia_Reports @missbwalya @gndhlovu @the_josephk @VOAAfrica Good attempt for judicial review but we all know by now this is all academic.

 

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