Professor Muna Ndulo says Justice Minister Given Lubinda’s refusal to obey a court order and pay back his illegally earned salary on grounds that it would violate his rights is embarrassing and arrogance of the ignorant.
The American-based Zambian professor who is lecturing International and Comparative Law at Cromwell university said a court judgement is binding to both parties involved, and obeying it is not discretional.
“The Minister of Justice Mr Given Lubinda last week stated on a televised interview that he would disobey a court order demanding him to restitute money the court adjudged was unconstitutionally earned. Mr Lubinda justified his refusal on the grounds that doing so would be a violation of his human rights although he did not state which rights actually would be violated. Such a statement from a Minister of Justice is not only embarrassing as it displays total ignorance of what rights are, but additionally displays a dangerous form of arrogance. The arrogance of the ignorant,” charged Prof Ndulo.
“Is it then any wonder that we have the Bill No.10 initiative when issues being raised in that debate are beyond the understanding of the Minister as his rights argument demonstrates? First of all, a court judgment is binding on all parties to the dispute. Obeying a court judgment is not discretionally and does not depend on whether one agrees with the judgment or not. The Constitutional Court is the apex court in relation to all constitutional matters and in a number of constitutional matters it exercises exclusive jurisdiction. The judges are subject only to the constitution and that they must apply the law impartially and without fear or favor or prejudice.”
He reminded the Justice Minister that a Constitutional Court judgement cannot be appealed anywhere, not even by the Head of State.
“The court’s judgment is final and it cannot be appealed against by anyone no matter how powerful. Even the President of Zambia is bound by court judgments as it should be. That is the essence of the rule of law. As the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) has reminded Mr Lubinda, failure to pay would be a violation of the law and is an assault on the rule of law and constitutionalism in Zambia. As Minister of Justice, Mr Lubinda’s responsibility should be to defend the courts since the courts are forbidden by judicial ethics to defend themselves in the public arena. Mr. Lubinda’s human rights argument is absurd,” Prof Ndulo said.
He said Lubinda had no rights to invent rights, adding that an attempt to do so was a demonstration that little learning is dangerous.
“Is he claiming that he has a right to disobey the courts? But then I thought this would be too uncharitable. Surely Mr Lubinda knows that he cannot invent rights? The only rights Zambians enjoy are those granted in Chapter III of the Constitution. No single individual is entitled to create rights. The Constitution of Zambia grants the following rights: right to life, liberty of the individual, security of person and protection of the law; freedom of conscience, expression, assembly, movement and association; protection of young persons from exploitation, protection for the privacy of his home and other property and from deprivation of property without compensation. Additionally, we can add rights recognized by Conventions which Zambia has joined and customary international law. None of these include a right to disobey court orders,”said Prof Ndulo.
“Mr Lubinda is entitled to his views about rights but he is not entitled to create new rights. No legal system in the world recognizes a right to disobey a court order. As the often quoted poem by Alexander Pope admonishes us ‘A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, And drinking largely sobers us again.’ We all would like Mr Lubinda to drink deeply from the spring so as to rethink his creation of new rights.”