CONSTITUTIONAL Lawyer John Sangwa says it is nonsensical to suggest that there is need for a constitutional amendment before the Chief Justice position can be advertised.
Speaking on Radio Phoenix’s Let the People Talk programme, Tuesday, Sangwa challenged Justice Minister Mulambo Haimbe to issue a statutory instrument if he believed that there was no law which facilitated for the same.
“We can debate over the interpretation that’here it means this, it means that’, but at the end of the day we [must] arrive at an agreed position. Integrity, we can’t negotiate on that. The law states integrity, so we now need to go and say how do we define integrity? Does it mean that I am a divorced person, I am eligible, can I still apply to be a judge? The fact that one has gone through divorce does it mean that the person is still eligible? Those are things we should be debating: what does integrity mean? What does merit mean, so that we guide the people who are aspiring to go to these offices,” Sangwa said.
“So that is the debate we should be having not hiding under the cover that ‘there is no law, there is no this’, that is complete nonsense. If there is no law, pass the law, nothing stops you from passing the law. This is not a negotiable issue by the way because it is in the constitution. Let us get on with the job, honourable Minister get on with the job, if you believe that you need a law, fine, issue a statutory instrument, if you think the statutory instrument is not adequate ask the President to introduce a bill in the National Assembly, we can have it within a month. But we can’t continue with this level of mediocrity and doing things that are completely in violation of the Constitution.”
Sangwa said the requirement for merit based appointments had been in the constitution since 2016.
“This system is long overdue, it should have been introduced the same time the constitution was amended in 2016. So we have delayed, we have not introduced these measures because the requirement in the constitution for merit based appointments has been there in the constitution since 2016 except nobody has followed that. That is where the problem is. All I am saying is that let us do things correctly. If this government has anything to learn from the previous government is the fact that the previous government never respected the law. The law says one thing and the law was saying something different,” he said.
“I am not only talking about qualifications; I am talking about the process of identifying suitable candidates. There was a new system that was introduced in 2016, this is what we should have been doing way back in 2016. We are dealing with government institutions, there has to be transparency, there has to be accountability because whatever is being done is being done in the name of the people. There has been an argument by the honourable Minister, by the way I got a reply, I think the President instructed the Minister to reply to my letter. I have received a letter from the Minister but I have not read it, and I don’t intend to read it because it is marked secret. I don’t believe that the ongoing debate is secret.”
Sangwa said appointments on merit reduced corruption in the public sector.
“The way institutions were corrupted was that their independence was taken away and you can only do that by putting people who are not supposed to be there, because they look at it as a favour to the appointing authority. But if somebody is appointed on merit, they will do their job because they know that they entered this job on merit, not because of political nepotism. We have to try something new, we can’t, given what we have gone through in the last 10 years, we have to try something new. The laws are there, the constitution is there, statutes are there, all we need to do is to follow what the law says,” said Sangwa.
“We are behaving like a church that has thrown out the Bible, can you imagine a church which has thrown out the bible? It is chaos! We have our Bible as a country which is the constitution and the laws, we simply have to follow what the law says and what the constitution says.”