The Law Association of Zambia was there long before I came on the scene and am very confident that it will still be there for many years to come, says LAZ president Linda Kasonde.
Featuring on the Hot FM Radio’s Hot seat programme today, Kasonde who is facing moves by the PF to dissolve her association, said LAZ was not being influenced by an individual member.
“We are living in a very polarized society where there are different views for or against us. Unfortunately our association has been subject to a lot of misinformation, name calling. For the truth to come out, it makes all the noise. LAZ stands on the principals of justice, honor and integrity and we serve not only our members but society at large throughout our history, we have always been a voice of reason, a voice of change, and a voice of the voiceless. And we hope that we will be in a position to do that for many years to come, we certainly mean very well for the country,” Kasonde said.
Asked how she was coping with the pressure as the first female leader at the helm of the association, Kasonde said her journey had been challenging so far.
“My journey as LAZ president has been quite challenging because our council came into office at a turbulent time as the country was very polarized and so it’s difficult to please everybody but our aim really is to follow the rule of law,” Kasonde said.
She said all the attacks on her as LAZ president had not come as a surprise because she had been a student of leadership for many years.
“Am not in support of any particular political party but don’t forget LAZ is governed by a council of 16 members, so its not just me, we work as a council, as a unit, we make decisions together, we act as a non partisan group, we just follow the law and our mandate is under section 4 of the LAZ Act, Kasonde said.
“I think there is a perception that women are more easily intimidated that, so I think from the things that have happened during my tenure, were less likely to happen to a man in that position.”
Commenting on the call by Kasama Member of Parliament Kelvin Sampa in parliament early this week to have the LAZ Act repealed, Kasonde wondered what the interest of a non lawyer was in the affairs of the association.
“When I first saw it (Bill), I think my first reaction was to wonder as to what the interest of a non-lawyer is in the affairs of the Law Association. Obviously, we are not perfect as an Association because nobody is but if there are any reforms to take place in the association, I believe those reforms should take place within the association and the association will be consulting its members over these issues in the coming weeks,” Kasonde said.
“Each individual has a different journey and the most important thing is to listen to themselves and their own ability, while am the first female LAZ president and there is no one else to compare me with, I would say that as long as you follow your mandate under the LAZ Act and do what you are supposed to be doing, then you shouldn’t be afraid. I only hope that by me standing in this position, I will make it easier for women who follow me in the future.Obviously as an association we are not perfect because nobody is, if there is any reform that should take place in the law association, I believe that those reforms should take place through the membership, from the lawyers themselves.”
The LAZ president said Members of parliament like any other member of society have divergent and different views.
“People think that there is friction between LAZ and the government of the day, but we think that we are just doing our job. It’s unfortunate that telling the truth in many societies is seen as a rebellious act, it’s unfortunate that we seem to have fallen victim of that. We are working according to the law as we understand it. There is a very old English saying that ‘Nobody kicks a dead dog’ I think our leadership is strong that when we choose not to speak, people start chanting, waving placards, saying a lot of things, so strong that an unknown lawyer has seen it fit to challenge the existence of the association, I don’t think that this is a sign of weak or poor leadership, in fact it’s a sign of strength,” Kasonde added.
She also stressed the need for divergent views to co-exist.
“Because we live in a democracy where there is freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of conscious, in a democracy ideally, divergent views should co-exist side by side, as somebody has put it “when a snake enters the hat, you don’t burn down the hat to get rid of the snake,” Kasonde said.
And Kasonde said it is not fair to say that the association did not want to comment on the issues of third term for President Edgar Lungu.
“The third term issue was on the media for quiet some time before it actually went to court and we chose not to comment which is why people think we took a lot of time. We later decided to take action by joining the case and before you join a case, you need to prepare, you need to research but we joined in time before the case started,” she stated.
“Our focus is just to fulfill our mandate and we do so without compromising our integrity. LAZ has always chosen when to comment, we comment on issues to do with social justice, good governance, rule of law, constitutional issues. We make decisions as a council, its not any one individual making decisions on behalf of the association. We have a 16 member council made up of men and women and sit and deliberate over issues, we also consult members over issue, so it’s not fair to say we are selective on issues to comment. And if we choose to comment on every issue, we would be issuing statements everyday.”
She stressed that LAZ was not supporting the opposition.
“No one individual controls the association; the association is made up of a council of individuals who have different views and beliefs. To say that the association has only been in favor of the opposition is not fair, we have previously issued four statements in defense of the judiciary. Unfortunately it never made headlines. The truth is we make statements on matters to do with both the government institutions and any other opposition political party,” Kasonde said.
She also said that there was no stipulated time as to when a case would be concluded in the constitutional court.
“We have rules as an association that before you can make comments publicly on a legal issues, you first have to seek permission from the council of the legal practitioners, those rules have been their since 1970. It is not true that any member has been suspended for breaching that rule and that report in the newspaper that three people have been suspended for voicing against LAZ is not true, those people were suspended for other things completely outside of what was being talked about in that article,” said Kasonde.
“I am not being controlled by anybody and I don’t think any of my colleagues are.”
Some callers insisted that Kasonde took long to issue a statement when the government or minnisters were being attacked while she was quick to defend the opposition.
Other callers accused Kasonde of joining the Post liquidation case because of her unknown personal interests.