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A proposal to the legal academy in Zambia: Award honorary doctorates in Law to your luminaries

Why are Zambia and Zambian Universities sting in awarding Honorary Doctorates to their luminaries who could be significant public role models to others to emulate? This article is limited to an examination of the legal academy and deals in summary with a few individuals who qualify for Honorary Doctorates in Law because of their contribution to legal scholarship and community building in law in Zambia.

Since time immemorial, universities have granted Honorary Doctorates to individuals who have made significant contributions to specific or general fields of endeavour. Most times these grants were universally acclaimed, that is the individual was recognized as having made those contributions. The awarding has always been public with the necessary pomp, ceremony and publicity. The speeches accompanying the awarding of the Doctorate have often been memorable and published in law journals, newspapers and various collectives. It has always been the pride of universities to be associated with these achieving individuals and these individuals have always been intricately intertwined with these universities. There have often existed mutual pride. There have often been great mutual benefit.

The Practice in Zambia with respect to legal scholars as an example has been dismal. Zambian universities have been either totally ignorant, oblivious, reluctant or neglectful of or to the importance of awarding its own citizens or foreign individuals associated with Zambia who have made signal contributions to any endeavour in life to grant them Honorary Doctorates. No Zambian University has ever awarded an Honorary Doctorate to an outstanding legal academic. Zambian universities have also been sparing in awarding of professorship to its teachers. It has never been explored as to why Zambian universities have been oblivious to the importance of recognizing its citizens or deserving foreigners with awards of Honorary Doctorates in law to legal academics compared to other countries, especially in North America. My simple investigation, yet to be verified, and talking to colleagues reveal among other reasons a cancerous abundance of PhDs (Pull Him or Her Down-PhD) mentality in Zambia. Why him or her, why not me, how about the others in the past who didn’t get it, will he or she now shine brighter etc?

Some things are better stated than hidden. Publicity is the best disinfectant against hidden agendas, corruption and other unbecoming conducts. I tested this PhD attitude to verify its pervasiveness, potency or presence in Zambia. I can state with confidence that Zambia suffers from extreme PhD paralysis. The example I give is just the tip of the iceberg. I was very excited when I heard that Honourable Dr. Justice Mumba Malila of the Supreme Court of Zambia had been awarded an earned Doctorate in law by the University of Pretoria in the Spring of 2017. I was so proud and felt that this is a role model to emulate and should be celebrated by Zambians. I checked his other academic, scholarly, legal-community engagement(LAZ, ZIALE, AU, SADC etc) and public service accomplishments: they were also impressive. I had no connection or friendship with Honourable Dr. Justice Mumba Malila. I just wanted to celebrate him. I had celebrated Nelson Mandela in similar vein in Canada. I had celebrated others before so this was not new to me. I set in motion a process whereby Honourable Dr. Justice Malila would be publicly recognized. I would simply like to say that I was met with the solid rock of PhD mentality in the legal academy. The support of the Law Association of Zambia(LAZ) could not overcome the deficit from the legal academy. What I had simply wanted to do with the Judge was simply to honour and recognize him at a stellar function. It was not to award him an Honorary Doctorate. He already had an earned one. I have not given up on this project yet. At some point we shall confine this entrenched PhD mentality to the dustbin of history.

I had a much easier time convincing my law school that I attended in Canada, Osgoode Hall Law School, to award Nelson Mandela an Honorary Doctorate in law while Mandela was still in prison. It was the first and only Canadian University and among a handful in the entire world to award Mandela an Honorary Doctorate in Law while Mandela was still in Prison. Mandela came to Toronto in June 1990 after his release to pick up the degree at a public ceremony at Queen’s Park, the provincial legislature. I relate all this in my book, “Thoughts Are Free”. There was no PhD mentality exhibited there but just enthusiasm that Mandela was a role model in the fight for justice.

The legal academy in Zambia could do the same to its deserving individuals. There are many Zambians and foreigners in the legal field who deserve recognition with an award of an Honourary Doctorate in law by a Zambian University. I am proposing that a Zambian university should award honorary doctorates in law to named individuals below. The basis of my recommendation is the following. I have not found any current and available individuals who have written more about Zambian law than Professors Muna NDulo, Kenneth Mwenda and Simon Kulusika. I have designed courses for offer at the LLM and Doctoral levels in law and this process forced me to read hundreds of Zambian legal and foreign materials and I have found evidence littered therein of the contributions of the three to Zambian legal scholarship. I stand of course to be corrected.

Professor Ndulo has selflessly laid the bedrock foundation of Zambian legal scholarship with his publications on mining law, criminal law, constitutional and civil liberties law, evidence, customary law, marriages etc and his scholarship has continued to be relevant in present day Zambia. He continues to contribute to Zambia’s economic, socio-cultural and legal developments by establishing without self-promotion and publicity, academic, and research institutions in Lusaka and Pemba and elsewhere. He continues to supervise LLM and PhD students at Cornell University (where he teaches and heads an institute)who write Theses and Dissertations on Zambia or relevant to Zambia. He is connected to Zambia and visits Zambia a number of times a year giving relevant lectures. His contribution to Zambian legal scholarship as a pioneer may never be equaled.

Prof. Ndulo is historically perhaps the most respected legal scholar by the Law Association of Zambia(LAZ). He was in the cohort of first students to enter the school of law at UNZA when it opened. He went on to graduate studies at Harvard and Oxford. Zambia’s economy has depended on mining and Prof. Ndulo’s book on Mining Rights in Zambia is indispensable to understanding Zambia’s economy and politics as well as land rights. A must read. Prof. Ndulo commands significant financial resources from Cornell and that is why he has been able to fund and establish educational institutions in Zambia. He is selfless. It is not known whether it is the PhD mentality why no Zambian University has ever honoured Prof Ndulo.

The second scholar would be Prof. Kenneth Mwenda. There is no current Zambian legal scholar who has written more on international and Zambian law than Prof. Mwenda. No Zambian scholar has written more path-breaking and pioneering scholarship on Zambian Banking, Financial, Regulatory, Anti-Corruption, Comparative Legal Education, Securities, Anti-money laundering laws etc than Prof. Mwenda. In recognition of his high caliber contribution to international, comparative and Zambian legal scholarship, two universities in South Africa and England have awarded Prof Mwenda with Higher Doctorate degrees. These are merit degrees assessed on the basis of higher level scholarship. They are not Honorary. They are academically assessed by an international panel and awarded on merit.

Prof Mwenda works at the World Bank while teaching at American University, University of Lusaka, University of Pretoria and University of Capetown. He gives papers regularly at LAZ annual conferences. Prof Mwenda has taught a number of Supreme Court, Constitutional Court and High Court judges.

There is no explanation whatsoever why no Zambian university has ever honoured this graduate of the University of Zambia, Oxford and Warwick with two Higher Honourary Doctorate degrees and an unequaled parade of refereed publications of books and journal articles.

Prof Simon Kulusika was not born in Zambia but he deserves an honour in Zambia. In preparing for the LLM and PhD courses from scratch and searching for Zambian relevant materials to include in the readings, Prof Kulusika’s publications stand out and I have included some of these in the course materials. He is one of the few foreign academics, along with Professors Nwabueze, Hatchard and Church who have written a lot about Zambian law. These other three also deserve honours as other Zambian legal scholars that I have not named. There is no reason why no Zambian university has honoured Prof Kulusika.

He who goes to the forest first, fetches the best fruit.

Dr. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa is Acting Dean of Law at Zambian Open University.

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