[By Fanny Kalonda]
GOVERNANCE, Elections and Advocacy Research Services (GEARS) Initiative has welcomed the establishment of fast-track courts by Chief Justice Mumba Malila to deal with financial and economic crimes.
GEARS Initiative executive director McDonald Chipenzi says the move is long overdue because corruption and economic crimes have been cited by various bodies.
“The move was long overdue in a country where corruption and economic crimes and abuses have been cited by various government bodies such as the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) and Auditor General’s reports,” he said in a statement. “Justice must not be too slow, which may end up into being construed to be unfair by the affected and the public as it has been witnessed in Zambia, but efficient which efficiency leads to a sense of fairness.”
Chipenzi noted that when using the normal court systems, the recovery of stolen public goods and properties had been tedious and time consuming.
He said this led some suspects being found guilty of corruption and their properties forfeited posthumously.
“Like other fast-track courts established before such as those on gender-based violence and traffic offences, the fast-track economic courts may act as a panacea to delayed retrieval and recovery of stolen public goods and properties and delayed justice system in Zambia,” said Chipenzi. “We hope these courts will not be politicised but deliver the desired outcomes and further help reduce the incidences of the occurrence of such crimes.”
On Monday, justice Malila said crimes of an economic nature deserve expeditious disposal because of their effect on the economy of the country.
“Criminal prosecution must be instituted against alleged wrongdoers who should be afforded a fair opportunity to answer to allegations against them. Crimes of an economic nature, especially, deserve expeditious disposal because of their effect on the economy of the country. In this connection, 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,” said justice Malila. “Only last Friday, pursuant to the power entrusted in me by Article 133(3) of the Constitution and section 3(3) of the high court Act, I signed a Statutory Instrument that will establish the Economic and Financial Crimes Division of the High Court for purposes of handling appeals from its Subordinate Court sibling.”