The Judiciary says it is expected to appear before the Parliamentary Select Committee on September 25, this year, regarding the Constitution Amendment Bill number 10 of 2019. According to Judiciary Public Relations Officer Kalumba Chisambisha-Slavin, judges held a consultative meeting last month to consider the consequences of Bill 10.
“The position of the Judiciary on the ramifications of Bill 10 was to be submitted to the office of the Clerk of the National Assembly by August 23, 2019. In order to have a meaningful contribution to the process, the Judiciary decided to convene a consultative meeting with some of the judges of the superior courts, which was scheduled to take place on Monday, August 26. Consequently, the consultative meeting was held on Monday at which the honourable judges considered the ramifications of Bill 10, as it affects the operations of the Judiciary. The Judiciary’s position on Bill 10 will be duly communicated to the National Assembly on Wednesday, August 28. The Judiciary is also expected to appear at the Parliamentary Select Committee on September 25, 2019,” read the judiciary statement.
We are in shock to hear this from the judiciary because as far as we know, it does not happen anywhere in the world where judges submit themselves to a parliamentary committee to make submissions on a matter of dispute that is before their courts of law. Now, since we are young, if this has happened in the past, our view is that it is totally wrong and it should not be allowed to perpetuate.
Let’s look at it from a journalistic point of view for the easy understanding of an average reader. As far as we, the media, know, judges don’t make comments. If we called a judge today and asked for a comment, especially on a contested issue, that judge will simply laugh at us and probably cut the phone.
For that reason, we don’t call judges for interviews, because we have always known that if judges have an issue on a matter, they make their position known in the judgment. This is specifically true when the matter in question is contested in a court.
We have been left confused by the move taken by the judges of Zambia because at this stage, we don’t understand what separation of powers means. Ordinarily, the judges must know better because they understand the law, the Constitution, but our simple understanding of civics is telling us that these are two separate arms of government which should operate independent of the other.
It is an absolute responsibility of Parliament to legislate laws, good or bad, and if anyone is aggrieved with the law or proposals made in a Bill that is about to be enacted, that aggrieved person has the right to go to the other arm of government to seek intervention – the judiciary. We do not see anywhere in the Constitution where it says when a Bill is proposed, judges can go to Parliament to explain the consequences of that law.
Our question is simple: if judges go to Parliament and make their position known on the Constitution Amendment Bill number 10, as they have done, how then are they going to sit and adjudicate the cases which the Law Association of Zambia and Chapter One Foundation have taken before them?
Let’s suppose they appeared before a Parliamentary Select Committee and submitted that there is nothing wrong with the proposals contained in Bill 10, how will they then listen objectively to the arguments filed before their court, which disagree with their parliamentary submission? If their submission to Parliament is that Bill 10 must not be allowed because it can affect the operations of the judiciary, how will these judges consider the arguments being made by the proponents of the Bill who have been sued?
We are not lawyers, but we can see a huge problem here. One just has to use common sense to appreciate that bias is not always about evidence; perception is enough to show that it exists. What we are seeing here is that our judges have created a very dangerous perception of bias, which has only succeeded in making the whole Bill 10 debacle a complete mess.
We have heard a very interesting argument from the Attorney General’s chambers, stating that the Law Association of Zambia is misplaced by challenging a Bill because it has not been enacted into law yet. “You can’t challenge a Bill,” they say. But let’s assume that LAZ waits until this Bill 10 is eventually passed into law and they go back to challenge it in court, how will the judges who took part in the process of enacting this law sit to adjudicate their own decision?
LAZ and Chapter One Foundation are telling Parliament that “you have powers to make laws, but you have exercised those powers wrongly because what you are legislating will completely alter the complexion of the entire Constitution.” The only institution that can settle this dispute is the judiciary, but the judiciary has surrendered itself to one party that has been dragged to court, leaving the aggrieved party in a disadvantaged position. This is bias, nothing else.
Citizens of this country must now start asking the right questions about this move from the judiciary which stinks of a dirty collusion. This is how nations fall; it starts with a small group of greedy people who don’t want to see an end to their rule, and as time goes by, the whole system gets coerced into the greedy agenda.