FORMER attorney general Musa Mwenye says a lot of presidents have been destroyed by praise singers.

And Mwenye says he has noticed a growing trend where judges are not appointed based on their capabilities but because of their closeness to power.

Meanwhile, Mwenye says the Judiciary should not be isolated from criticism.

Speaking when he featured on ZNBC’s Sunday Interview, Mwenye said informed criticism should be promoted as it helps to build Presidents.

“Our commitment as citizens should be to keep our government honest because you see, I have always been of the view that sycophancy destroys presidents. Praise singers are the worst people because a lot of presidents are destroyed by praise singers. Principled and informed critics are what builds presidents. If I flag off something early, you give the politicians time to self correct before it becomes a problem. So informed and respective criticism must be promoted and encouraged because it helps us as long as we hear the criticism and act upon it,” he said.

And Mwenye said judges must not be appointed based on patronage.

“Of course the way we appoint judges, we must not appoint judges simply based on patronage. To be honest, in the recent past that has been a huge problem. I know that as a young lawyer, one of the things we saw was some of the most strong practitioners would be enticed to take up appointments in the judiciary but we saw a growing trend in the last few years where it was not about the capability of the judges but it was closeness to power. That should never be the case,” he said.

He agreed with Constitutional Lawyer John Sangwa that there was need for transparency in selecting a chief justice.

“I think we must put everything in context. As far as I can hear John’s arguments, Mr Sangwa’s argument is that of transparency and openness. Anything that engenders transparency ought to be embraced. But having served in government, I do know that a lot of things before they are implemented need a bit of due diligence. There is need of a bit of care before you move quickly to implement some issues. Going to his core argument about having more transparency, having more accountability in the appointment of important officers such as the chief justice, he is correct that the move worldwide is for more transparency and we have seen that in Kenya, we have seen that in South Africa. To that extent, I am in agreement with anything that engenders more transparency, that builds more trust in the institutes, especially in the institutions such as the Judiciary,” he said.

“Whether we should implement it now is a matter that really requires a bit more introspection. For now, it is a good recommendation but I am not yet at a place where I have heard enough arguments and have accessed the surrounding circumstances enough to be convinced one way or the other whether it should happen in this instance. But I do agree completely with more transparency, with more accountability. It is the way to go with the modern recruitment of judges. The thing is that when you open it up and you publicize and open the interview process, you let the people see for themselves the competencies of the people being appointed.”

Meanwhile, Mwenye said the judiciary should not be isolated from criticism.

“The constitution is very clear that one of the principles by which the delivery of justice and the systems that are set by to deliver justice is to abide by accountability. The constitution itself says the judiciary should be accountable. So we can’t have a system where the judiciary is not accountable to the public. Now we should not insult the judiciary, we should not get to a place where we reduce the respectability of the important institutions such as the judiciary but we should not isolate the judiciary from criticism,” Mwenye said.

Mwenye also said those who were in the previous government should be the first ones to be subjected to lifestyle audits.

“If you recall, I had offered myself to be the first person to be checked because I served in government. I served as solicitor general and then I graduated to serving as attorney general. So I shouldn’t be so sensitive to being asked questions about what I have and how I acquired it during the period I was in government. Whether it was after government or before government. There is nothing wrong with transparency and there is no way we can fight corruption unless we go beyond looking for specific crimes. Those who were in government should be the first ones. I think it should be extended to those who were in government, at the end of the day if you have wealth that you can’t explain there is prima facie criminal offence there. A person who can’t explain the wealth they have is potentially in possession of property reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime. Whatever I have I should be able to explain it. Why is it so difficult in this setting that we are in to just explain our wealth? We start from the previous government, that’s where we start from,” said Mwenye.

“I agree, we should come up with a formalized process, we should perhaps make it clear to everyone, it shouldn’t just be in the mind of ACC. The South Africans are implementing it already, it is not difficult to do a case study and to bring the experiences from there to here. But what is clear is that we must have this because you just can’t wait for a silver bullet to say ‘Musa Mwenye has committed a crime and here is the evidence’. If you don’t have the evidence, look at my lifestyle. I’m saying to the new government that we should start with the immediate past government because they haven’t had enough time for us to say their lifestyles have changed, but there will be a time when we shall ask them those questions as well.”