Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) president Eddie Mwitwa says there is a misconception that the Constitution Amendment Bill Number 10 of 2019 has been amended to remove contentious issues, when in fact not.
And Mwitwa says the legal profession in Zambia is still grappling with the unemployment of junior lawyers.
Meanwhile, Mwitwa says LAZ will in the first week of April hold an annual elective conference to seek a fresh mandate.
In an interview, Mwitwa said the original Bill 10 which was drafted last June, was the same document that would be debated and presented for Second Reading to Parliament next month.
“In this particular year, we still have the issue of Bill 10 that is hanging over our heads. Next month, that Bill is expected to go back to Parliament. Our hope, as we stated last year, was that that Bill should have been withdrawn. I must also take this opportunity to state again that there is a misconception in the public that Bill 10 has been amended because there was a Select Committee that rendered a report on what stakeholders said. That report is not an amendment to the Bill. The Bill that we saw in June is still the same Bill that is going to be debated on the floor of Parliament next month,” Mwitwa said.
He insisted that Zambia was not in a constitutional crisis and people would not perish if Bill 10 was not enacted into law.
Mwitwa also insisted that Bill 10 must be withdrawn from Parliament because it sought to enhance the Executive’s powers, among others.
“Our hope is that that Bill is withdrawn and that the Minister of Justice (Given Lubinda) and the Ministry will go back to the drawing board and see what stakeholders that have opposed the content of the Bill have said and include such changes in any attempts to amend the Constitution. We have said before that Zambia is not in a constitutional crisis. We cannot die if Bill 10 does not become law, but if Bill 10 becomes law, there is a great danger that our democracy will be weakened, our separation of powers will be weakened, and then, there will be Executive powers that will be enhanced, which will cause an imbalance in the way the governance system is supposed to be,” Mwitwa said.
And he lamented that the legal profession was grappling with creating employment opportunities for junior lawyers.
“Economically, 2019 was a difficult year. We hope to see better fortunes in the year, 2020. For us, as a legal profession, we are still grappling with dealing with issues of how do we enhance the chances of junior lawyers getting employed? We have seen a number of them graduating from ZIALE, but then, they come into the profession with limited opportunities to get employed,” Mwitwa said.
He said LAZ would continue engaging the Judiciary to expedite the delivery of justice.
“What still remains a challenge, which is something that we continue engaging the Judiciary about in this particular year and beyond, is the timeline for delivery of judgements because sometimes you find that there are some cases, which are as old as five years! They were heard and the judgement is still pending. And the danger with that is that case records go missing, judges forget the demeanour of witnesses and certain details of the trial and at the end of the day, what you have is a miscarriage of justice,” he said.
“In as much as there are some improvements in certain areas, what we hope to see this year and beyond is the quickening the pace at which judgements are delivered, especially from the High Court because we now have a process where somebody can get a judgement in the High Court and want to appeal to the Court of Appeal and eventually to the Supreme Court. So, the sooner the High Court delivers its decisions on matters, the better the litigants are involved.”
Meanwhile, Mwitwa announced that LAZ would be holding its annual general conference for leaders to seek a fresh mandate.
“Thankfully, this is a year that we are going to the annual general meeting to seek a fresh mandate. We will have an elective AGM in the first week of April and we are also having our annual law conference. So, it’s an exciting first quarter of the year and we are looking forward to a successful Annual General Meeting (AGM), which will usher in a new Council. And also, we are looking forward to fruitful deliberations on the challenges that we are facing as a legal profession and also the opportunities that exist for us to optimize the practice of the law,” said Mwitwa.