Obvious Mwaliteta says the justice system in Zambia is pathetic. It’s indisputable!
And talking about his one year incarceration on trumped up aggravated robbery charges of which he has been acquitted by the High Court, Mwaliteta says, “It was a terrible experience! The experience was bad because I lost everything that I worked for when I was a member of parliament from 2011 to the time I resigned from the PF. I lost everything [and] my family was not the same anymore. My friends were even scared to go and see my family because they thought when they go to see them (family members), they might be picked [up]. So, it was a terrible situation. At one time, there was a time you heard that I’m sick…You just break down [because] you can’t stomach it. It was just too heavy! But eventually, I just picked up the pieces and said I think we need to move on.”
How does Edgar Lungu and his minions justify this? This is nothing but cruelty. And cruelty can be described as deriving pleasure from deliberately inflicting suffering on others. Psychologically, cruelty is the manifestation of frustration and anger, which is given vent by deliberate aggression. Cruelty is a general human phenomenon, as animals do not really inflict pain on mere whim. It is only humans who can truly comprehend pain and suffering and voluntarily inflict it on others to satiate their sadistic instinct or avenge an insult.
Cruelty, like every other vice, requires no motive outside of itself; it only requires opportunity. In the name of noble purposes human beings have committed unspeakable acts of cruelty against one another. Edgar’s cruelty, heartlessness is frightening! Look at the way he cruelly treats people who were once his friends when they differ! If he can treat people who were at one time close to him in this insensitive way, what should those he doesn’t know expect from him? One year in prison is not a short period. By the time one comes out, one’s life – financially, socially and otherwise – can be totally ruined. Those who arrested Mwaliteta and his co-accused knew very well or ought to have known very well that they had done nothing wrong. It was all about fixing them. And charging them with aggravated robbery was simply meant to ensure that they are remanded in prison because it is a non-bailable offence.
What type of justice is this? Justice without compassion is but tyranny. Mercy and justice go hand in hand.
Yet, since God is infinitely perfect, we cannot limit ourselves to looking at only one of His attributes while leaving aside the others, which are equally infinite. If God had only mercy and no justice, He would be missing something essential to every rational being, which is to act equitably. That would be absurd and would lead to a distorted notion of the Creator. This is why the same Prophet David underlines God’s infinite justice by saying, He [The Lord] hath prepared his throne in judgment: and he shall judge the world in equity, he shall judge the people in justice (Ps. 9: 8-10). And also, the Lord is just, and hath loved justice (Ps. 10:8).
Obviously, there can be no contradiction between mercy and justice, but only harmony, as the same prophet emphasises: mercy and truth have met each other: justice and peace have kissed (Ps. 84:11). Therefore, we must love God’s mercy as much as His justice, as both are attributes of the same infinite God and reflect His boundless wisdom and love.
Mercy is a feeling of compassion with someone’s suffering and needs, along with a desire or readiness to help him according to one’s possibilities. It is therefore more than a merely emotional sentiment that does not lead to action; nor is it mere philanthropy that turns aiding the needy into a quasi bureaucratic procedure.
Mercy must come from true charity toward neighbour and must be entirely subject to the guidance of reason, the judgment of the intelligence, and the dictates of justice. For, as Saint Augustine puts it, mercy is a virtuous act “in so far as that movement of the soul is obedient to reason,” and “is bestowed without violating justice”.
Mercy tempers justice by diminishing the punishment or by making its application more benign. But it cannot run counter to justice or eliminate it; for, as Saint Thomas states, “Mercy without justice is the mother of dissolution; [and] justice without mercy is cruelty.”
Thus, when the balance between mercy and justice is lost, the wicked either are allowed to go unpunished or are punished with brutality. Both things lead to social chaos and cause confusion in people’s minds. Indeed, failing to punish one who breaks divine or human laws weakens the notion of good and evil in people’s consciences and leads to moral relativism. For its part, cruelty in punishment makes justice odious to the people. A sinner or criminal should be adequately punished for his fault so that justice is done and the sense of justice remains alive in society. Without the sense of justice, life among men degenerates into the law of the jungle.
However, along with justice, Saint Thomas says, the sinner should also be the object of mercy, taking into account some involuntary or not directly desired effects of his fault. This does not eliminate the punishment for the evil done but makes it more suave.
We should bear in mind that the works of mercy with which we practice that virtue are both corporal (to give alms, visit the sick, and so on and so forth) and spiritual (teach the ignorant, give good advice, admonish sinners, pray for the deceased, and so on and so forth). Although both the corporal and spiritual works of mercy are necessary and important, Saint Thomas, following Church tradition, considers the spiritual works of mercy superior to the corporal ones, as they are more directly related with eternal salvation.
Of these spiritual works of mercy, to admonish sinners is very important “because thereby we drive out our brother’s evil, namely sin, the removal of which pertains to charity rather than the removal of an external loss, or of a bodily injury, in so much as the contrary good of virtue is more akin to charity than the good of the body or of external things”. The administration of the criminal justice system must be rooted in the Constitution. They can’t simply arrest, detain and charge people as they desire. But the administration of the criminal justice system requires fairness and compassion. It is essential for those who administer our criminal justice system to have a sense of empathy in order for law enforcement to serve its ultimate purpose – to further human dignity.
The law – a just law – is rooted in ethics and the impetus for ethics is empathy. Without empathy, the law is merely a tool for the strong to rationalise their position, not an instrument for social justice in the service of all. Certainly the law should be guided by facts, not feelings and that reason should prevail over emotion. The law is meant to be dispassionate. But that only describes part of the process.