A GOVERNANCE activist is distraught that Zambians have allowed judge Sunday Nkonde to continue dispensing ‘justice’ thanks to a stay.
Brebner Changala says nothing is giving hope to the people of Zambia that ‘this institution is functioning; in case of a crisis we shall run to this.’
“We are living in a moment where I believe very strongly that we are under a State capture,” he said.
Changala has lamented that despite being on the “wanted list,” of the Judicial Complaints Commission (JCC), High Court judge Nkonde has remained on the bench, thanks to a stay.
Changala, in an interview, charged that the rule of law in Zambia had broken down and that all governance systems were hanging in despair.
“Most of our institutions are now in ICU (Intensive Care Unit). Nothing is giving hope to the people of Zambia that ‘this institution is functioning; in case of a crisis we shall run to this.’ The Executive has gone loose and it is creating chaos as and when it feels like,” Changala said.
“The Legislature is in a total mess. The Judiciary seems to have lost it all. Out of this self-conflicted position, we have reached a stage where a judge who is supposed to dispense justice can go to work from Monday to Friday on the basis of a stay that he obtained from a fellow judge.”
In late November 2017, President Edgar Lungu refused to suspend judge Nkonde, due to a stay which the latter obtained from his Ndola counterpart.
The JCC had asked President Lungu to suspend judge Nkonde so as to allow for investigations into how he handled the liquidation of the privately owned Post Newspapers Limited in November 2016.
President Lungu was, then, reportedly amenable to suspend judge Nkonde, in accordance with the Constitution, within seven days.
But according to President Lungu’s reply to the JCC, judge Nkonde on November 20, 2017, sued the State and obtained a stay against the JCC ruling by way of a judicial review in the High Court.
“I note that the Judicial Complaints Commission has found Mr Justice Sunday Nkonde, SC with a prima facie case. I further note that Article 144(3) of the Constitution mandates the President to suspend the judge found with a prima facie case,” wrote President Lungu.
“However, I have since been served with an order staying the decision of the Judicial Complaints Commission pending determination of the matter by the High Court. In the circumstances, I am unable to suspend judge Sunday Nkonde until the order of stay is set aside or as the court may otherwise direct.”
Judge Nkonde is seeking judicial review of the JCC’s recommendation for his suspension over a complaint lodged by Post (in liquidation) editor-in-chief Dr Fred M’membe.
Changala is concerned that despite the JCC recommendation about judge Nkonde, he has remained a legal umpire entrusted to deliver justice.
He advised that the Judiciary must see the urgency to remove “cobwebs and suspicion” that Zambians attach to it that it is corrupt, insensitive and that it has been hijacked by the Executive.
“How else can one conclude when a judge continues to dispense ‘justice’ while he is on the wanted list by the Judicial Complaints Commission for a perceived misdemeanor? Why should a judge serve the High Court on the basis of a court order?” Changala wondered.
“That questions the integrity and morality of the current judicial system. I appeal to the Chief Justice (Irene Mambilima) to find a way, within her powers, to make this matter be heard as urgently as possible. Some of the judgments that are churned out of the High Court are as a result of incompetence….”
He noted that Zambians were suffering silently due to a messy judiciary.
“I strongly appeal to the Chief Justice and any relevant authority in the judiciary to update the nation as to how many judges are serving on the bench on the basis of a court order or a stay. We shall not continue on this trajectory for the sake of fearing the unknown,” Changala said.
“The Judiciary calls venom and spite from the public on its own through its unacceptable conduct. Can a judge continue serving for more than a year on the basis of a court order or a stay? When are we going to have this judiciary come [out] clean on these many allegations which are being piled and yet they don’t want to talk to the nation?”
He asked, “where is the case of Sunday Nkonde as at today?”
“Why is it not progressing so that it is put to rest? We cannot tolerate having a judge who is a suspect to sit on the bench dispensing justice. He must first clear his name! We cannot have a judiciary that is full of suspects!” Changala stressed.
Meanwhile, Changala pointed out that he strongly believed that the State was currently captured by all sorts of unwanted elements.
“We are living in a moment where I believe very strongly that we are under a State capture,” said Changala.
“There is a clique that is running the Executive, there is a clique of lawyers that is also disturbing the judiciary through conniving and bringing rotten or unsound applications to the bench and these rotten applications are entertained by the judiciary.”