The Judicial Complaints Commission (JCC) has asked President Edgar Lungu to suspend High Court judge Sunday Nkonde in order to pave way for investigations into how he handled the liquidation of The Post Newspaper.

A Judiciary official who explained the development to News Diggers! said following the recommendation from the JCC, president Lungu was obliged, in accordance with the Constitution, to suspend judge Nkonde within 7 days.

“It is true and of course this is in relation to professional misconduct in the manner he handled the liquidation of The Post. So, a few days ago, the JCC made a recommendation to the President to suspend judge Nkonde because apparently, he refused to answer to allegations that were levelled against him by the shareholders of the Post,” the official who sought anonymity explained.

“One of the issues that were raised by The Post shareholders to the JCC were that judge Nkonde was biased towards the provisional liquidator of the company, to the extent that he had time to hear the lawyers representing the provisional liquidator, while he did not take time to hear the parties representing the shareholders.”

The official said judge Nkonde was also reported for failing to recuse himself, despite having had previous interest in seeing the closure of The Post.

“So the trouble now is that when the JCC sat, it found that the allegations raised against judge Nkonde, if substantiated, were in breach of section 3, section 4(1), section 5(1), section 6(1), and section 2(a) 9(5) and 10(a) of the judicial code of conduct Act number 13 of 1999, as amended by Act number 13 of 2006. This meant that, if proved, the allegations could warrant the removal of judge Nkonde from office. Again, this is according to the Constitution, I think Article number 143 and Article 144 as amended by Act number 2 of 2016,” explained the official.

The source narrated that when he was asked to exculpate himself, judge Nkonde declined, saying he was still presiding over the matter and could not pre-empt his rulings to the JCC.

“In his response, he just argued that the allegations against him were also submitted in his court and as such he could not pre-empt his rulings to the JCC. So, this forced the JCC’s decision that a prima facie case had been established against him because his explanation was not satisfying,” said the sources.

“Now, according to the Constitution, when the Judicial Complaints Commission establishes a prima facie case against a judge, it should submit a report to the President, and the President should, within 7 days from the date of receiving the report, suspend the judge from office. The Judicial Complaints Commission is then, within 30 days, of the judge being suspended from office, hear the matter in detail. That is where we are.”

President Lungu appointed Nkonde, a former Solicitor General, to the position of High Court judge in May 2016, along with eight others.

In counselling the appointees during a swaering in ceremony on June 14, 2016, President Lungu said the public had a bad perception against some judges because they had questionable conduct.

“I hope that you will be equal to the task and will be able to execute your duties within their professional ethics, because that is the only way that you will gain respect and support of the Zambian people. Many times, members of the public formed perceptions about the judges because of their conduct which did not conform to the norms,” said President Lungu.

The Post newspaper was closed down on June 21 and later forced into liquidation on November 2, 2016.