ACTING Chief Justice Michael Musonda says everyone who has been given the authority to do something on behalf of the people should not set about to alienate them.
And Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) Chapter vice-president Dr Anne Chewe says interventions aimed at tackling corruption will only yield positive results if weaknesses that exist in institutions are addressed.
Speaking during the launch of Service Charters for the Supreme court, Constitutional court, Court of Appeal and the Local Courts, Thursday, Justice Musonda said there was need to ensure that laws were expressed in language which an ordinary man and woman could relate to.
“It does make a lot of sense to make sure that everyone who has been given this authority to do something on behalf of the people should set about to alienate these same people. And I think this is the essence of what Transparency International and the Judiciary has been doing in coming up with these simplified processes and procedures. We have to make access to justice a reality to many people through making things before them in plain and simple language. What that means is that even our laws themselves must be expressed in language which an ordinary man and woman can relate to,” Justice Musonda said.
“The days are long gone when lawyers wanted to thrive on demystification of the law. The law is intended to serve the people and therefore no good purpose will be served by alienating the people from the laws. So this is a challenge to Transparency International and others interested in the justice sector, I know how difficult it is but a journey of a thousand miles started with the first step. We do hope that all the institutions that are involved in matters of law such as ourselves must join hands and make sure that we make the law as plain as we can and make the processes and procedures in our courts as plan and accessible as we can.”
Justice Musonda said the Judiciary must ensure it is responsive to the legitimate expectations of the people.
“We as the Judiciary consider the simplification of court processes and procedures which obtain in our country’s courts a very noble task which resonates with our institution’s operational pillars. We in the Judiciary are alive to the fact that Judicial authority which judges and magistrates exercise is derived from the people of Zambia who in terms of Article 118 of our constitution are the true owners of that authority. In coming up with simplified court processes and procedures through the Service Charters, the Judiciary is doing no more than being responsive to the legitimate expectations of the people of our mother land,” he said.
“We in the Judiciary can only appeal to all stakeholders in the justice sector to join us in initiating and executing initiatives such as the preparation of Service Charters which seek to fulfill our vision of providing timely and accessible justice to all. Everyone who is interested in justice should take a keen interest in the Service Charters because they represent a significant milestone in accessibility to justice in our land. In our quest to remain continuously relevant and responsive to society expectations we in the Judiciary look forward to receiving comments or suggestions on how we can continue to improve on our processes and procedures.”
Justice Musonda said Parliament and the Judiciary must make sure that laws were accessible to the people who are the true owners of authority.
“If the Service Charters seek to simplify court processes and procedures, is it not possible to ensure these processes and procedures are simplified from inception? By simplifying procedures, we do not want to negate the essence and meaning of the founding law. I am asking these questions because in today’s world, there is a very strong movement which has been championing the demystification or simplification of what lawyers and judges do. This movement contends that laws and procedures are intended to serve the people,” said Justice Musonda.
“If they are intended to serve the people, these laws must not be alienated from the people they seek to serve. The Constitution reminds us that a law making function is done on behalf of the people. So if Parliament and the Judiciary do everything that they are constitutionally mandated to do on behalf of the true owners of the authority, it does tend to reason in my view that we have an obligation to make sure that laws are accessible and responsive to the needs of the people. The people themselves must understand them because when we enforce the law as courts we do so on behalf of the people.”
Meanwhile, Dr Chewe said interventions aimed at tackling corruption would only yield positive results if weaknesses that exist in institutions were addressed.
“As we all know, Zambia had continued to experience different problems in relation to our economy and our governance systems and corruption remains one such problem whose effects are felt across different sectors of Zambia’s economy. According to the Corruption Perception Index for year 2020, the corruption situation in Zambia has not shown so much improvement over the last five years. And over the same period, we have also seen many issues that have dominated the media landscape as far as corruption allegations are concerned,” Dr Chewe said.
“This is in addition to the revelations that have been made through the Auditor General’s Report and the Financial Intelligence Centre Trends Analysis. The scenario intends that all stakeholders who have an interest in fighting corruption have a lot of work to do if we have to achieve meaningful progress in that regard. Our belief as TIZ is that the corruption problem that Zambia faces is rooted in systemic weaknesses that exist at different levels and in various public and private institutions. It therefore follows that interventions aimed at tackling corruption will only yield positive results if they take a similar systemic approach to addressing this unwanted scourge in our society.”
Dr Chewe said the Service Charters would contribute to key strategic objectives aimed at enhancing performance the judicial process.
“The Service Charters that have been developed by the Judiciary are an important toolkit for kick-starting the process of system wide interventions that will help address the corruption problem in Zambia. The Service Charters will provide both the Judiciary and the non-judicial staff with clear standards for in-service delivery and the mechanism by which the people shall participate in the dispensation of justice without compromising independence, impartiality, dignity, accessibility and effectiveness of the courts. TIZ hopes that these Service Charters will contribute to the key strategic objectives of the Judiciary transformation plan of enhancing performance, accountability, excellence and independence in the judicial process because this is an additional initiative towards the continuous improvement of the judicial process to provide timely and quality services to all,” said Dr Chewe.
“It is our sincere hope that the Judiciary as a service provider will commit to implementing this Service Charters as a social contract with our clients. TIZ is therefore very pleased to be involved in this very important activity of launching the Service Charters for the Supreme court, Constitutional court, Court of Appeal and the Local Courts. We believe that the Service Charters will play an important role in promoting integrity, transparency and accountability within the Judiciary. Our involvement in this activity is a continuation of the good collaboration that exists between the TIZ and the Zambian Judiciary.”