CHIEF justice Mumba Malila has urged adjudicators to penalise those who embezzle public resources and deprive citizens of milk and honey.
Speaking at the ceremonial opening of Lusaka High Court 2022 criminal sessions, Chief justice Malila also revealed that an Economic and Financial Crimes Court would be effected at Subordinate Court level to ensure that illegitimate assets were reclaimed and reinstated to the national treasury.
“Patriotism demands that state institutions with a nationalistic culture and personnel throw the book at those who rip-off public resources to deny poor village school children a classroom desk to sit on, the pregnant rural mother a decent place to deliver in, the shanty compound family clean water and sanitation, the sick citizen access to essential medical care and the economy the much needed opportunities for growth for the happiness of the greatest number of our people,” Chief Justice Malila said.
“Crimes of an economic nature, especially, deserve expeditious disposal because of their effect on the economy of the country. I am pleased to announce that administratively an Economic and Financial Crimes Court at the level of the Subordinate Court will soon be operational. It is designed to offer specialised, fast-track court services, and ensure that, all due process requirements being observed, illicitly obtained wealth is speedily recovered and restored to the public fiscus so as to enable the government channel the resources to build that essential road, pay that old village grandmother the social cash transfer money she so badly needs, repair that collapsed roof of the old school; and stock that public hospital with essential drugs.”
Chief Justice Malila, who also highlighted crises adjudicators faced in the dispensation of justice, said the government’s promise in relation to the sovereignty of the judiciary should be actualised.
“The new administration has given every indication that it will place a high premium on professionalism, the transformation of governance institutions for improved service delivery, and the elimination of any abuse of power and the use of undemocratic tactics,” he added. “Assurances for a more independent and financially autonomous Judiciary have been made. For our part we shall continue to insist that this autonomy is realised with dispatch. It is in fact the way to go if the Judiciary is to thrive and deliver good quality justice.”
Chief Justice Malila urged judges to promote patriotism in the execution of their mandate.
“This year’s theme is ‘When Patriotism Meets Justice’. Accordingly, a patriot is a person who loves, supports, and protects his or her country and its interests with dedication. The theme for this year is thus largely relevant and instructive. It resonates well with what the new government has told the voters it wishes to achieve,” he said. “In the context of our time, I consider patriotism as our duties to our country in the very human attitudes of respect, compassion, and pride. It means a sense of national responsibility which is not transient or mere frantic surges of emotions, but a solid dedication of a lifetime. My interpretation of our theme for this year is that all that seek justice, and those of us employed to dispense it, must train in patriotism.”
Chief Justice Mailila cautioned judges not to allow the destruction of fundamental freedoms by ignoring the suppression of moral integrity and accountability.
He implored judiciary officials to ascertain their personal patriotism to their country.
“Patriotism enjoins all of us to question wrong doing, at least. Those not engaged in adjudication, and other avocations that deprive them of a public voice, should ask themselves a series of questions including these: ‘Would I truly consider myself a patriot if I kept quiet whilst those entrusted with responsibility act irresponsibly?’” he said. “’Would I be a true lover of my country if I did not put my talent at its disposal? Would I be showing patriotism if I engaged in scurrilous attacks on public officials for no other reason than hatred and spite based on artificial barriers and differences?’”
He explained that true patriots had the responsibility of holding politicians liable as an assurance that the government remained a true picture of the people’s wishes.
Chief Justice Malila urged adjudicators to be resourceful, not claiming to be patriots and continue to perform below the required standard.
“When the country appears polarised by petty squabbles and antipathies between political players, true patriots rise above them all and look at the bigger picture. In my view, the true test of our patriotic character is to stand for the right thing even if it is unpopular to our self-interest, perceived or real,” he noted. “True patriots in the Judiciary will bravely step forward, not only to dispense justice as they deliver true, unbiased judgments, but also speak out within their judgments when the path the country is treading needs to be altered for the benefit of all of its citizens. No one can be addressed as a patriot when he or she turns up late for work and leaves early, or worse still does not, for days turn up at all. We must always remain a hard-working crew, a committed lot and the results must be apparent for all to see. We should also remember that patriotism abhors the pull him down syndrome, it (patriotism) celebrates success and denigrates failure.”
Chief Justice Malila further counseled judges not to be quick in flexing their muscles on anyone who censured their decisions.
“Public criticism about the way we discharge our work is a normal feature. The natural inclination is to resent being openly vilified. Patriotism requires equanimity in the face of criticism from the public when it is well founded,” said Chief justice Malila.
“Resentment and action should only follow when the criticism is vicious and irresponsible. It takes a patriot, wherever they are, to fight corruption and to resist the selfish appeal of corruption, tribalism, nepotism and cronyism.”
Minister of Justice Mulambo Haimbe said judges should be impartial, independent and hastily determine matters to ensure there was efficient and effective access to justice.
“The new dawn administration will promote the principles of separation of powers and allow the judiciary to dispense the highest form of justice based on integrity, independence and equality of treatment to all,” said Haimbe.
And session judge Charles Zulu said judicial independence was not an injunction on the judiciary from forging ties with likeminded stakeholders.
“The judiciary in modern era cannot afford to isolate itself from strategic partners in realising its strategic mission and vision. Ceremonies of this nature should be an attractive exhibition of our achievements and challenges,” said judge Zulu.