PF lawyer Tutwa Ngulube has described the transfer of 10 magistrates out of Lusaka as an attack on the Judiciary, saying the UPND should seriously reflect on the matter as they too benefited from the institution’s independence.
And PF member Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba says this will erode the independence of the Judiciary as most judicial officers will not be making honest judgements for fear of being perceived to be PF sympathisers.
The Judicial Service Commission has transferred at least 10 Magistrates, among them Lusaka magistrate Jenipher Bwalya who recently discharged former Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Development Ronald Chitotela of two counts of possession of property reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime.
In an interview, Wednesday, Ngulube urged the new dawn government to reflect on their actions, arguing that magistrates were non-partisan and were believed to be independent and impartial.
“The decision by the new dawn government to transfer more than nine magistrates because these magistrates are applying the law as it is written in our books is an attack on the Judiciary and the Judiciary must react. We are aware that magistrates are non-partisan and are believed to be independent and impartial. The threats that we saw, the organised protests at the magistrates’ court to threaten, demean and intimidate our magistrates is not part of the culture of this country. We, therefore, urge the new dawn government to reflect seriously on their actions because we know that even the new dawn government also did benefit immensely from the independence of the judiciary,” he said.
“If the judiciary was not independent, all those people who were arrested under the UPND government would not have been getting bail, would not have been getting released, would not actually have been treated with impartiality.”
Ngulube insisted that the Judiciary should be left to operate independently, warning that all the threats and actions against the institution would soon backfire.
“We want to repeat that Bally will soon damage the Judiciary. And once the Judiciary is damaged, that is the end of this country. The politicians will become more venomous, they will become lethal, they will become toxic and poisonous to the nation. The reason why they don’t want anyone to neutralise their power. We want to repeat that the Judiciary must remain independent, fearless and impartial. All the threats, all the actions, all the games people are trying to put up to try and intimidate the Judiciary will soon backfire and they can even mark my words, it will soon backfire and it will backfire very very badly. Anyone who tries to play with the Judiciary will soon see the difference between their independence and the intimidation,” he said.
And Mwamba said the move would erode the independence of the Judiciary.
“It is a very unfortunate development because I think now the Judiciary will not perform independently because of fear that if they make an honest judgement they may be perceived to be PF sympathisers. So as a result of that I think the Judiciary is no longer independent. It is been controlled by the Executive which is the president. So Zambians should brace for hard times in terms of [the] verdict that will be passed in most [cases] in the Judiciary. They will not be fair but they will be compromised judgements whereby the Executive will have a hand in it,” he said.
He said Zambians should rise and stop the Executive from interfering in matters at the Judiciary.
“So I think it’s a very sad situation and if this is allowed by the Zambians, I think Zambians should rise to the occasion and stop the Executive [who want] to start poking their nose into the Judiciary. The Judiciary has always been an independent institution, since independence it has always been independent. What we are seeing today is unprecedented, it has never happened in the history of this country and what they should realise our colleagues in the government today is that they only have four years, four months to go. They will be lucky to go beyond four years, four months. The same Judiciary today they are harassing will be the same Judiciary they will be crying to,” said Mwamba.
“I know it’s just a way of revenge because of what they went through. The UPND, they are trying to revenge now and make sure that they punish the Judiciary. But they should realise that they are not punishing the Judiciary, they are punishing the country because the Judiciary will be making most decisions that are not based on the law. So I think the Executive should stop interfering in the [operations of the] Judiciary and if they continue doing that, I can say that they are doing it at their own peril. Sooner rather than later it will be them now going through what others are going through.”