EASTERN Province Minister Makebi Zulu says constitutional lawyer John Sangwa State Counsel should stop inciting members of the public to attack the Constitutional Court.
On Tuesday, Sangwa said the ConCourt Judges and President Edgar Lungu acted corruptly by offering and accepting job offers for positions they did not qualify for.
But in an interview, Zulu said such remarks could make people lose trust in the courts.
“I am disappointed at his sentiments addressing the courts in the manner that he has. And casting accusations on the court. The debate has been simple, eligibility, understanding of the judgment it has been okay and it is okay to debate ideas. But the moment you become personal, it seizes to be a debate, it becomes an attack. The court can only protect itself and speak only through judgments, they cannot come out in public on any radio interview or anything to speak for themselves. And the manner in which Sangwa has gone to talk against the ConCourt, alleging that they are unqualified, that they are corrupt, in that they participated in a bribe, accepting the position that he says they were not qualified for, it is contemptuous and he should seize to go in that particular direction. I call on the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) president (Eddie) Mwitwa to condemn this act by Sangwa. As a matter of fact, the legal practitioners committee should be able to protect the dignity of the court. It is incumbent upon all of us to ensure that the dignity of the court is protected because when people lose trust in the courts, when this incitement of the public against the court is allowed to be perpetuated, we will have a situation where people will no longer have confidence and trust in our courts and that is not good for our country. So a person of his stature who is SC should restrict himself to debating ideas and not personalities as he has been doing,” Zulu said.
When asked if he thought the judges were qualified, Zulu said they were properly qualified.
“We are past that stage. He debated this a long time ago the process went through and see, for the President to appoint, he doesn’t call someone and say I am appointing you, the Judicial Service Commission does the appointment and they present the names to the President. The President says these are the names you have presented to me, I will take them to parliament and due process was followed in the appointment of these people he alleges that they are unqualified. And every time they pass a judgment, and he disagrees with them, this idea that he goes against the court because he doesn’t agree with their ideas is not typical of us lawyers to do that. I have debated with Mr Sangwa before but I have never called him names because I have great respect for him. In the same manner that he wants to be respected is the same he must respect others,” Zulu said.
“In my view, they are properly qualified to be in that particular office because due process was followed. And they are in that place after being scrutinized by competent people. And they are in those positions discharging the functions of those offices and we can’t be inciting the public against the ConCourt merely because there is a judgement we do not agree with. Because if they were not qualified, he should have never appeared before them at all.”
And reacting to Constitutional lawyer and Former Justice Minister Dr Rodger Chongwe’s remarks that the ConCourt made rubbish decisions, Zulu asked him to challenge the decision in court rather than throw stones.
“I am sure that Mr Rodger Chongwe knows very well that even assuming that the ConCourt made a mistake, you do not correct the court by way of going to the public, that is not how to correct the court in our system. He had an option, he could have sought for an interpretation of that particular judgement which he thinks he disagrees with or he may have to wait for another opportunity for similar circumstances. Then the court may revisit the judgment. For as long as that judgment stands, it is good law. This idea of trying to impede the court judgment to public debate is not a good idea. When the court disagrees with you, you don’t start throwing stones on the court because that is the point of view they have taken. Interpretation of the law is a technical issue it is not for every person to be able to interpret the law. It is for that reason that in our constitution we are given the mandate to interpret the constitution, to the courts, if you feel any person or any institution are going against the values of the constitution, you protect it by going to the court. If the court has said that President Lungu is eligible, he is eligible. Unless the very court itself says he is not eligible,” Zulu insisted.
He also insisted that President Lungu was the party’s preferred candidate.
“Why should we look for a candidate when we have understood the judgment? We are going for a convention and the President has not said that he doesn’t want to be challenged. Those who want to challenge him will challenge him we are not like other parties that have not had conventions in over 10 years. I am giving my vote to President Lungu. Why should any other person force us to change the candidate? For us it is Edgar Chagwa Lungu and we are going with him,” said Zulu.