Outgoing Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) president Linda Kasonde has asked lawyers to use their legal tools to help those in need whilst enhancing their legal knowledge, saying Zambians are living in precarious times.
Addressing Zambian lawyers on what the judiciary could do to address challenges affecting Zambian, during the seventh LAZ annual conference yesterday in Livingstone, Kasonde called on the legal fraternity to find ways of using tools in their trade to help people in need through various initiatives.
The event was attended by Chief Justice Ireen Mambilima, as guest of honour in place of Kenya’s Chief Justice David Maraga who was scheduled to deliver a keynote address but did not make it for the event.
“We hold this conference under the theme ‘Power, Privilege and the Pursuit of Justice: Legal Challenges in Precarious Times’. This is a very relevant theme at a time when many of our country is going through challenging times both economically and politically. Globally, the legal profession consists of some of the most privileged individuals in the world, it is often seen as elitist. This is not surprising considering the odds of becoming a lawyer, particularly in Zambia. It is tempting to forget that we live in one of the poorest countries in the world, where 54 per cent of the Zambian population lives below the poverty line; it is tempting to forget that not everyone has a voice; it is tempting to forget that legal services remain out of the reach of the majority of Zambians. And even if you do not forget, it is tempting not to care,” Kasonde said.
“With privilege comes responsibility. As the Bible tells us in Luke 12:48, ‘To whom much is given, much is expected’. I invite you all to find ways to use the tools of your trade to help those in need. Through LAZ initiatives such as the National Legal Aid Clinic for Women, the LAZ legal week, the anti-GBV week, or even external initiatives such as the juvenile justice project ‘Undikumbukire’ started by LAZ member Sara Larios or Legal Resources Chambers started by Mr. John Sangwa and Mr. Robert Simeza, everyone of us can do something. Of course, lawyers ply their trade to make a living. As discussed in the ‘Globalising Your Practice’ conference held on 3rd and 4th April 2018, lawyers have to be equipped for the challenge of practicing the law in the 21st Century. As I have stated at another forum, lawyers in the 21st century need to be innovative, informed, prepared to make sacrifices and to be courageous.”
Kasonde stated that the judiciary had come under attack with other arms of government in its efforts to address some of the challenges that Zambians face.
“If anyone doubts that we are indeed living in precarious times, you only have to consider this statistic: in the last two years that this Council has been in office, LAZ has issued a total of eight statements in defence of the judiciary, not including interviews. That is as compared to the fact that between 2011 to 2015 LAZ only issued three statements in defence of the judiciary. Our Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land by which all inhabitants of Zambia are bound, sets out the perimeters within which the people of Zambia should be ruled. It provides for the separation of powers of the three arms of government: the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. It provides for checks and balances on these three arms of government. At the heart of constitutionalism and the rule of law are the judiciary. They are the guardians of constitutionalism and the rule of law in Zambia. It is subsequently imperative that Zambia has a strong, independent and impartial judiciary,” Kasonde stated.
“As Professor Muna Ndulo says: ‘the judiciary in accordance with the Constitution and the nature of its functions is the only government agency that is called upon to protect human rights and advance the rule of law, accountability and transparency in government and the criminal justice system. The rule of law is effective when it is impartially and effectively applied. Court decisions have to be obeyed without question. A government operating under a written Constitution has no more power that is granted to it by the Constitution, either expressly or by necessary implication’.”
And bidding farewell to her position yesterday, Kasonde called on her fellow lawyers to use their tools and skills to attain meaningful resolutions to help in addressing some of the developmental and rule of law challenges that the country had been facing.
“The judiciary has a duty to the people of Zambia to uphold the law regardless of the personalities or subject matter involved. Since the 2016 amendments to the Constitution, we have seen a rise in what South African Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has observed in South Africa which is law-fare: the fighting of political battles through the courts. Subsequently, the judiciary itself has come under attack for attempting to check the power of the state,” said Kasonde.
“I hope that we will be able to make meaningful resolutions to help in addressing some of the developmental and rule of law challenges we face in the country whilst at the same time enhancing our legal knowledge and skills. As former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere once said: ‘The rule of law is the basis on which rests the freedom and equality of our citizens. It must remain the foundation of our state. We must not allow even our disgust with the mutineers to overcome our principles’.”