Among all the lawyers we know, the new Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) president Eddie Mwitwa stands out as one of the most non-aligned legal minds we have in the country. We have not known of any deliberate partisan schemes in which he was involved for his political interests. He is neither green nor red, and we believe that he has ascended to the helm of the legal body with clean hands and no ulterior motives.
In fact, that is his major weakness. To a greater degree, Mr Mwitwa is a political innocent. This is not a crooked lawyer who has any mercenary experience. He lives in a perfect world where things are either black or white, and we anticipate that he will have difficulties dealing with the grey areas of his job.
In saying this, we are not suggesting that a good LAZ president must be a lawyer with a crooked background. Our opinion is that to succeed in that position, one must be alert to political alignments and maneuvers around the entire association. A LAZ president who doesn’t understand the interests of the people he is leading can easily be turned into a fool and portrayed to the public as a political cadre.
We are afraid that Mr Mwitwa may not have woken up to this reality yet. It is very likely that he thinks the Law Association of Zambia is simply an Act of Parliament designed to further the development of law, order and social justice. He doesn’t understand that in the eyes of top political rivals, LAZ is a vehicle for swinging public perception and turning black into white.
A typical example of what we are trying to explain is the unpopular position that the Mwitwa-led LAZ has taken over the controversial land gift, which President Edgar Lungu received from eSwatini. When Mr Mwitwa was transmitting the statement to our newsroom, the document had already been sent to us by the PF media team almost an hour earlier. Not by one PF official, but several of them; some even suggesting headlines for us: “LAZ clears Lungu”.
Now, a politically alert LAZ president would wonder why this was the case. Quite alright, they may have sat as a LAZ council and this was the collective position of the advisory team, but Mr Mwitwa must remember that even judges have private political affiliations. When time for voting comes, they carry their voters’ cards to go and elect their preferred political leaders. It would be folly for the LAZ president to think that his vice-president and the rest of the executive and council are non-partisan.
What Mr Mwitwa must know is that he is the torchbearer and whatever decision LAZ makes, the buck stops with him. If he does not move swiftly to study the character of each individual under his administration, this office will draw him into public ridicule and his career as a lawyer will be affected.
Knowing how innocent he is, it is with pain that we must admit, Mr Mwitwa is up to a very bad start. This being the very first government scandal that he is commenting on, it leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of many who have vested all their trust and confidence in the Law Association of Zambia.
We are not legal experts and so we cannot challenge the opinion of LAZ on the eSwatini gift. But we are able to read English and what we can say with confidence is that the legal body embarrassingly contradicted itself. In one statement, LAZ was telling the citizens that there was no illegality in President Lungu receiving the gift, and in the same breath advising the Head of State to surrender the land to the Zambia mission in eSwatini.
Even our most inarticulate readers were able to see that this statement was badly written and not making sense. These readers went further to educate the very learned counsel that Zambia has no mission in eSwatini but was being managed by the mission in Mozambique.
The English say the first cut is the deepest, but maybe it’s too early to judge Mr Mwitwa. However, we must hasten to remind him that his predecessor set the bar for LAZ too high. If he intends to do better than Linda Kasonde, he must come out of his shell and face the real fight.
Kasonde was astute, she understood the nature of weapon she had in her hands and used it to protect the Constitution, whatever the ramifications. She faced evil within the association and in the corridors of power, but she did not hesitate to strike with precision, anyone who breached the law.
Wherever she is today, Kasonde should be walking with her head high, knowing she succeeded to demonstrate her girl power within just one term, and left the stage while the audience was still clapping.
It’s up to you Mr Mwitwa, are you going to continue ‘firing blanks’ or you will man up and equal Kasonde’s energy?