JUDICIAL Complaints Commission (JCC) chairperson Vincent Malambo State Counsel says one of the cases the Commission is dealing with presents a clear failure of the judicial appointment system as the complaint was already known to government before ratification.

And President Hakainde Hichilema says the JCC must hear all complaints expeditiously and make decisions based on merit.

Speaking when he handed over two investigative reports at State House, Friday, Malambo, however, said what was not clear was whether the complaint against the judge in question was availed to the committee of Parliament which handled the ratification of the appointment.

“The report we hand over today is the work that commenced on 19th January, 2022 when we received the complaint from one of our citizens. The formal hearings took place between 17th February to 25th April, 2022 when the advocates for the judge in issue closed their arguments. Members of the public must resist and report corruption. When they report it, they must be protected against possible threats by those who are usually powerful and they are the only beneficiaries of an entrenched culture of corruption. When corruption enters the Judiciary then society is in peril, it is in trouble. When it becomes possible to purchase a favorable judgment, then society truly adopts the law of the jungle where only the fittest survive,” he said.

“This is why we must strike hard to send a clear message that a corrupt judge belongs to the jungle and not among the decent and honourable people of this country. One of the cases we are dealing with today presents a very clear failure of the judicial appointment system in this country. The complaint against the judge was already known to the government before the judge was ratified. What is not clear is whether this information was availed to the committee of parliament that handled the ratification of the appointment of the judge.”

Malambo said Zambia needed to introduce a more transparent and merit-based system in the appointment of judges.

“There is merit in the argument that Zambia perhaps should introduce a much more transparent and merit-based system in the appointment of persons to the high office of judge. A system that will invite and involve a broader public input and participation. If not at the candidate selection stage, then at the very least on the ratification stage. It is the public who quite often has critical information that can assist the appointing authority make impeachable decisions,” said Malambo.

“Confidence in the Judiciary is founded not only in the competence and diligence of its members but also on their integrity. Judges must be the personal embodiment of truth and justice. The personal qualities, conduct and image of a judge are the only true foundation upon which public confidence in the judiciary is built. The Zambian people expected it and they deserved it.”

Meanwhile, President Hichilema insisted that the Executive would not interfere in the operations of the JCC.

“You have been working behind the scenes but the presentation of reports is the evidence of the work that you have been doing. So the Executive will continue to confirm that no one is immune to oversight. We are all subject to oversight. In this case, it includes those on the bench. Out there in the communities, the perception is that the bench is above the law. It is not right but that is the general perception. So I think what you are doing today reaffirms that we are all answerable to the law,” he said.

“So the Executive will continue to assure you to exercise its constitutional mandate when called upon to do so by your commission. We will not interfere with your operations. The Executive will continue to have faith in an independent, constitutional and professional body like yours. Have our assurance like the English adage says that it takes two to tangle. The Executive will continue respecting the JCC and other arms. Of course, the Judiciary overall and the Chief Justice. It is also important that reciprocity is given to the Executive and therefore to the people. Even in these commissions, we must discharge our duties properly and responsibly.”

President Hichilema said the JCC must hear all complaints expeditiously and make decisions based on merit.

“The JCC is implored to hear all complaints expeditiously. It is up to you to say there is no merit here once you have gone into the content of the complaint. I think speed is also important because justice delayed is justice denied. I am glad you have encouraged ordinary citizens to come out because your commission works on the basis that there is a complaint. I want to encourage citizens to use this platform as we work to root out corruption which really became endemic in the past years. You did not know as citizens where to go in order to fight corruption because you may report corruption to a platform that is actually part of the report you are making,” said President Hichilema.

“The Executive will carefully study the reports submitted today and in future. We will take appropriate action as mandated by the supreme law of our land which is the Constitution. The President will act within the constitutional provisions and not outside. That must be in line with the credibility and integrity of the processes of decisions that are made. When we are not sure, we will evoke a process of consultation with yourselves to make sure that we understand what you are saying. We do not want to act if we do not fully understand. I can assure you that Zambians have their eyes popped out and ears wide open to hear the next steps. Our message is that we will act in accordance with our supreme law of the land.”