GOVERNANCE activist Brebner Changala has charged that Zambia’s judiciary is conspiring with the dictator in President Edgar Lungu.
He is urging Chief Justice Irene Chirwa Mambilima, “whether she is in good books with the executive and the President,” to be in good books with the law, as well.
Changala is further asking if the Lungu presidency and the judiciary take Zambians for buffoons.
In December 2019, Changala told The Mast that he was distressed that Zambians had allowed a “suspect” of a judge like Sunday Nkonde to continue dispensing ‘justice.’
Changala lamented that despite being on the “wanted list,” of the Judicial Complaints Commission (JCC), High Court judge Nkonde remained on the bench, thanks to a stay.
In late November 2017, President 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 on November 2, 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 and managing director Dr Fred M’membe.
But Changala called The Mast and said; “we don’t hear anything about the case of judge Sunday Nkonde. Now, if you don’t hear anything about it, there’s a conspiracy.”
He regretted that the institutions of governance in Zambia had been destroyed by the very people who were sworn to uphold and protect the Constitution.
“The case of The Post newspaper and the case of the Judicial Complaints Commission advising the President to set-up a tribunal to investigate Sunday Nkonde is a matter that has been packed in our court, without any movement, without any reason and without any sense of justice. Justice delayed is justice denied, as it goes,” Changala said. “The judiciary is deliberately conspiring with the executive to destroy this country.”
He believes that the country’s judiciary is “participating in the injustice that is being meted out [to] those people they don’t like.”
“How can a matter which came up in 2017 under judge Isaac Chali, may his soul rest in peace, consented to between the Solicitor General (Abraham Mwansa) and the lawyers for Sunday Nkonde…” Changala wondered. “That matter came back through the Judicial Complaints Commission; they wrote to the President to have a second cherry bite…But that was intercepted when a stay was obtained in the High Court. Judge Sunday Nkonde is staying in the judiciary on the merits of the stay granted by a fellow judge!”
He argued that it was a misnomer for a judge to remain on the court bench, for years, on merely a stay.
“You cannot allow this! I, Brebner Changala, will not participate in the silence of conspiracy. One day, we’ll have to make these judges accountable,” Changala said. “You cannot make this matter pend for so long. This matter should have been handled with the urgency it deserves, knowing very well the person involved is a judge and whose competence and trust have been put in question by the Judicial Complaints Commission.”
Changala also noted that judge Nkonde’s case was not the only one that was hanging in the courts of law.
“There’s an impeachment of President Edgar Lungu which was removed from our Parliament and taken to our Judiciary. That matter has never been presided on. It has never moved an inch! The Judiciary is conspiring with the dictator!” Changala charged. “There’s also a matter that has never been pronounced on – the matter of President Edgar Lungu during the [2016 presidential] petition when he was supposed to hand-over power to the Speaker, as per the Constitution. That matter was taken to court and no decision has ever been pronounced.”
He challenged the judiciary to come out in the open and “tell us who they think we are.”
“A bunch of buffoonery citizenry? Have they taken the people of Zambia for idiots? Why are they failing even to pretend to mete out justice? If they want to protect their friends, at least they can act on these matters of urgency and rule in favour of their colleagues, if they want to,” Changala said.
“But to hold the nation to ransom is unacceptable and intolerable. Our government system is fractured but I want to tell the Chief Justice that she has a solemn duty, whether she is in good books with the Executive and the President, to be in good books with the law.”
He stressed that justice Mambilima ought to pay allegiance to the Republican Constitution.
“She must give guidance as the Chief Justice of one of the most important arms of government. She must ensure that justice is embedded in the people of Zambia at all times. [But] what is happening now leaves much to be desired,” Changala said. “She cannot allow a judge to stay in the judiciary merely on a stay for close to three years, without that matter being dispensed of. This is injustice and she must remove this perception that the Executive has hired certain individuals from the law fraternity to frustrate those who want to seek justice, by making applications, through judicial reviews, in the courts of law and those cases are packed and packed permanently. That is not justice!”
Changala further indicated that justice Mambilima lives in Zambia as the Chief Justice and that she was aware of the political tempo.
“The political tempo in this country is highly charged and she must not be seen to side with the Executive at all times, and leave the people of Zambia with arms akimbo and with nowhere to go. This is how conflicts start. This is how civil war starts!” Changala cautioned. “Where there is no justice, there is conflict and she will be to blame, when all is said and done at some point. The judiciary at the moment is not inspiring because of the conduct of some men and women on the bench.”
He added that it was already bad and punishing enough that Zambians were currently grappling with a moribund but oppressive Executive.
“[It’s an Executive] which doesn’t mean well and is oppressive. We are dealing with many issues and people are hurting. And that’s when the Judiciary puts a roadblock to good governance! That’s when the judiciary decides to go to bed with the oppressor!” Changala lamented.
“I want to tell everybody in the Judiciary that there will be a day to account when the people of Zambia will say enough is enough. We need an answer as quickly as possible. What is the position on the impeachment of the President? What is the position on judge Sunday Nkonde’s stay in office on merely a stay? Why can’t matters move? There are also many other cases that are begging answers.”
Changala further appealed to the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) leadership, “as fresh as they are,” to look at the court bench, before they look at anything else.
He said he could have loved new LAZ president Abyudi Shonga to have visited justice Mambilima, “other than the oppressor at State House.”
Shonga, his vice-president Lungusani Zulu and the Association’s treasurer Ngosa Simachela visited President Lungu at State House last Tuesday.
“We don’t know what deal they went to cut there. We have no idea! State House is a source of concern. We are going towards a general election and we have a matter concerning the Speaker not taking over power during a petition. Are these people taking the people of Zambia as buffoons? Have we lost value as a citizenry that we can be taken for granted by the very men and women that we entrusted to dispense justice, on Independence Avenue?” asked Changala. “These three matters must be answered. When we have a presidential petition, is the Speaker going to take office? For how long will Sunday Nkonde dispense ‘justice’ through a stay? What is the position on the impeachment of President Edgar Chagwa Lungu? These three matters must be answered by the judiciary, with the help of the Chief Justice. So, help me God!”