LUSAKA lawyer Milingo Lungu has called on all legal professionals to stop attacking judges and insulting their persona, saying doing so is undermining the very tenet of rule of law, which the profession has sworn to protect.
And United Liberal Party (ULP) president Sakwiba Sikota says any decision that courts make automatically becomes law and whoever is still in opposition of such a decision breaks the rule of the law in the country.
Meanwhile, Malambo PF member of parliament Makebi Zulu says UPND members of parliament have insulted chiefs, disabled people and women and youths in Zambia by rejecting Constitutional Amendment Bill Number 10 of 2019.
In apparent reference to constitutional lawyer John Sangwa SC’s critique on Constitutional Court judges on their lack of qualifications to occupy that office, Milingo said lawyers must be the last people to attack any officer of the Judiciary.
He was speaking during Prime Television’s Monday edition of the Oxygen of Democracy programme.
“There is a growing trend, which I think is a dangerous trend, which seems to pit us, as officers of the court, against the institutions of governance. I think we are sworn to uphold and protect the Constitution, and we are also sworn to protect the integrity and credibility of those institutions and, therefore, we should be the last people to attack those institutions outside what is provided for by the law. So, I think it’s important that we can agree that attacking judges or insulting their persona is undermining the very tenet of rule of law, which we were sworn to protect,” Milingo argued.
Milingo said since 1991, all constitutional amendment processes have faced opposition.
“Except in 1991, all constitutional amendments have faced opposition for various reasons. But does that mean that all amendments have been bad? No. Unfortunately, I think there is a vested interest in those, who are not in government, opposing whatever has been proposed and part of the problem lies in the fact that the Constitution has no in-built mechanism on how amendments or how consensus-building should be achieved in the amendment process. I think that has been the greatest problem. So, everyone, who is not part of the establishment of the process opposes the process. Coming to Bill 10, I think there are a lot of progressive clauses in there. I think what ought to happen for anyone, and I think that would be the reasonable approach to take, would be to come up with their own Green Paper or White Paper and state to say: ‘this is our position.’ Because depending on the time of day and which event someone is appearing, you find they either support this or they support that,” said Milingo.
“You do not have a consolidated position from either the CSOs or the opposition as to exactly what is objectionable and the reasons why it is objectionable. The fact of the matter is that our Constitution has got lacunas. But there are a lot of progressive clauses in Bill 10 and I think if we have to be reasonable and debate, I think there would be a give and take in terms of the final approach. But from what we see, it has just been a trend since 1991 that you just oppose and at times those of us, who are not part of the parliamentary process, we are frustrated because we feel that the opposition are just there for opposition and not necessarily that we are taking the country forward.”
And Sikota SC argued that the only way around a court decision was to change the legislation because anything courts said was the law.
“Once a court has made a decision, it becomes authoritative. I may have my own opinion about a particular ruling, but my opinion is not important. What is an authoritative interpretation of the law or of the Constitution is that which the Court will say; whether you like it or not, that becomes the law. You can’t turn it around otherwise. If you start saying that, ‘no, what the court has said is not the law,’ and that is at the last stage where there is no further appeal, then you are taking away from the rule of law because, then, you are saying that the body, which is supposed to be the one that gives authoritative interpretation, is not the one, so one should then someone follow whatever will be said? You will have a breakdown in rule and order. So, you have to have it as a baseline that, once the courts have made a decision, whether you like it or not, that is what the law is. If you don’t like it, the only way you can get round it is to bring in fresh legislation to change that which had been done,” said Sikota.
Meanwhile, speaking on the same programme, Zulu charged that the UPND did not have the people’s best interest at heart by consistently rejecting Bill 10.
“If, indeed, UPND believed that what they believe is true, they were not going to enforce a three-line whip. They just announced that it’s a three-line whip, everyone who belongs to UPND will have to get their way, and otherwise, there will be consequences. How do you impose consequences on something, which, as a party, you morally believe is true and correct? Unless you believe that you are merely imposing your will upon the members of parliament, who are in Parliament, not to represent the party by the way, but to represent the people,” said Zulu.
“As the Patriotic Front, we’ve said we are not going to have a three-line whip where we are going to vote in a particular way. The Constitution is a document of conscience, use your conscience! What are you going to tell your chief when you go back and say, ‘you no longer have control over your subjects?’ I think the chiefs have been insulted; I feel the women have been insulted; I feel the youths have been insulted, and I feel the differently-abled have been insulted because the chiefs are saying they want to the Constitution to be amended. But what is my brother [Cornelius Mweetwa] saying? He is saying ‘all those that are speaking for the Constitution have been hired!’ That is an insult to the people of Zambia!”
But UPND deputy spokesperson and Choma Central member of parliament Cornelius Mweetwa insisted that the UPND were still not in support of Bill 10 because they did not trust the PF.
“How can you ask as to trust a government that has proved its untrustworthiness? The Constitution is about governance. In 2016, when we went for elections, these colleagues of ours in PF went at large to tell the nation that, ‘if you street vendors vote for UPND, HH will chase you from the streets!’ But what did they do? When they came in, they were the first ones to chase the vendors. Secondly, markets were burnt at Chisokone and City Market; these colleagues were quick again to say, ‘it’s the work of the opposition because they want to undermine government.’ A lot of UPND people were rounded up and detained, some for two weeks and others for three weeks without any charges against them. After that, they just released people and up to-date, they’ve never told us who was behind the burning of Soweto and Chisokone Market. So, even on this Bill, we cannot trust them because the PF have never had the people’s best interest in all they do,” said Mweetwa.