LUIWA UPND member of parliament Situmbeko Musokotwane has lamented that the recently-appointed High Court judges do not represent all regions of the country as enshrined in the Constitution.
But Minister of Justice Given Lubinda says he hopes the constitutional provision which calls for regional diversity when it comes to appointments will become irrelevant due to intermarriages, arguing that people should get jobs on merit.
The duo was debating the ratification of the Presidential appointment of Charles Kafunda, Joshua Banda, Dorcas Munkombwe-Malama, Twaambo Shalwindi Musonda, Daniel Musonda, John Harrison Mbuzi, Willie Sinyangwe, Mwaaka Chigali Mikalile, Lameck Mwale, Alice Mipunga Ntambo Sitali and Marriam Mutebi Bah – Matandala to serve as High Court Judges.
The appointment of the 11 judges was ratified.
In his debate, Musukotwane said the people who put the regional diversity provision in the constitution had very good reasons.
“From the outset, I wish to say that I do support but I must also say that I support reluctantly. Mr Speaker, I support reluctantly because the committee have been very loud and clear in telling us that these nominees, in making these nominations, an important principle that is enshrined in the Zambian constitution has been violated and Mr Speaker, that provision says appointments must reflect the nature of our country. In other words, national appointments must come from everywhere in the country or at least as widely represented in the country. The report of the committee says that this has not been so in this particular case. And yes Mr Speaker, we shall always be scrutinizing these names to see whether this provision of the constitution is being complied with. How else can anyone complain about that because the constitution is very important. The people who put this provision in the constitution have very good reasons for saying that public appointments must be from all over the country and not be concentrated in a few places,” said Musokotwane.
But in his debate, Lubinda, who is also Kabwata PF member of parliament, said regional considerations were irrelevant.
“Sir, they do mention in their report one matter that is very important and I want to commend them for starting this debate because I think this is a very necessary debate, a very healthy debate. They raise it Sir, on page 40 of their report and they say as follows, “the committee observes that the appointment has to a large extent not complied with the constitution requirement for regional diversity”. And here is where the debate lies, however, due to intermarriages, it is hopeful that in future, the constitution requirement of regional representation will lose its significance. That is a healthy trajectory and I want to commend your committee Sir, for being so outright, questioning our very constitution. This asks us as parliamentarians to be open to this debate and ask ourselves for how long can we have such provisions in the constitution,” he said.
“Sir, I agree with this debate entirely and I would like to enjoin all serious members of parliament to think seriously about this matter. This day and age, can anybody truthfully and honestly say they are capable of distinguishing persons based on region in Zambia today? Sir, anyone who takes that trajectory is a danger to our democracy and a danger to our unitary state because such a person is fostering a seed of discontent amongst our people and that must be stopped.”
He emphasised the need to appoint people based on merit.
“I know of Ng’andu Magande from Southern Province but I also know of Bwalya Ng’andu from Northern Province. How then will the appointing authority start digging and asking ‘where is your umbilical cord buried?’ Zambia is advancing and I would like to encourage all serious members of parliament to take this debate to the people, let us not divide ourselves on the basis on name, let us appoint people on the basis of merit and I am glad Sir, that your committee finds that all the 11 nominees are suitable for ratification,” said Lubinda.
Meanwhile, Home Affairs minister Stephen Kampyongo urged the appointees coming from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to use their experiences to expedite cases.