The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) says President Edgar Lungu’s criticism against judges has not broken any law and must be viewed as a demand for the independence, dignity and effectiveness of the Judiciary.

In a statement today, YALI governance advisor Isaac Mwanza also asked President Lungu to appoint the five remaining judges of the ConCourt.

“After a careful examination of remarks made by President Lungu, our conclusion is that the President Lung’s revelations and criticism against Judges has not broken any law and must be viewed as a demand for the independence, dignity and effectiveness of the Judiciary as they adjudicate in the 2021 eligibility case in accordance with Article 122 (4),” Mwanza stated.

“The President’s counsel to judges not to be influenced by any entity [and it] should, in fact, be welcomed by citizens who, since the failed 2016 Presidential Petition, have accused Judges of the Constitutional Court of having been biased and easily influenced by external forces. The Judges do not need the protection of President Lungu in their dispensation of Justice. The Judges are protected – both from the President and anyone – by the Constitution and the law, not the President.”

Mwanza stated that President Lungu’s demands could actually save ConCourt judges some embarrassment in future from people like UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema calling them corrupt.

“President Lungu’s demands for thoroughness among Judges ought to be viewed as a recognition of challenges on the bench which has led to Zambia’s main opposition leader, Hakainde Hichilema to allege that some Judges may be corrupt. The President’s call for thoroughness could, in fact, save the Judges from any future embarrassment of being reported to the Judicial Complaints Commission, where some were found inconsistent and inexperienced, in so far, as handling the presidential petition was concerned,” he stated.

“President as Head of State and Government, as per Article 91 (1), is within the law to render an opinion and counsel to the Judiciary. Lately, we know of a Livingstone magistrate who was suspended by the Judiciary for performing his constitutional duty of referring a matter to the constitutional court and the President cannot be expected to pay a blind eye to such happenings. As head of government, he ought to speak out.”

Mwanza stated that while YALI held the view that no one was allowed to intimidate judges, all citizens, including President Lungu, must continue calling on judges to uphold the law.

“Our view is that nobody must be allowed to intimidate the judiciary, not even the President, but we demand that citizens, including the President himself, must continue to call on Judges to uphold the rule of law and speedily dispense justice. We ask Judges to still feel comfortable, knowing that society is watching and interested in what they do from the bench,” Mwanza stated.

And Mwanza asked President Lungu to appoint five remaining judges of the ConCourt.

“The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) has examined remarks made by President Edgar Chagwa Lungu in Solwezi on Thursday, November 3, 2017 that have raised controversy regarding a pending decision of the Constitutional Court on whether Mr. Lungu qualifies for to stand in 2021 or not. While we do not endorse the premature calls for impeachment of the President, YALI calls on President Lungu to urgently appoint the remaining five Judges of the Constitutional Court in accordance with Article 127 (c),” stated Mwanza.

“YALI, like many other actors, value the independence of the judiciary. We however believe the judiciary, like any other arm of government, is not beyond criticism. Article 118 clause 1 of the Zambian Constitution demands for judicial authority to be exercised in a just manner which promote accountability. It is our position therefore that judicial independence is a commodity which must be valued and granted to Judges and judicial officers who are accountable.”