Ireen Mambilima as Chief Justice: Justice must not only be done ,it must also be seen to be done

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ECZ chairperson Ireen Mambilima
ECZ chairperson Ireen Mambilima

Some countries have stopped appointing sitting judges to hot-potato political positions because of the fear of the violation of a centuries-old truism which simply reposes majestically: “Justice must not only be done, it must also be seen to be done.” These democratic countries instead appoint retired judges or other retired personalities of apparent integrity to handle high stakes political positions. After they have handled these volatile political missions, these personalities are never given judicial or other political positions where they stand the chance of being accused being biased towards the appointing authority.

It does not matter whether the accusations hold water or these individuals have pure hearts as the Virgin Mary or similarly angelic entities, the adage of “Justice must not only be done, but it must also be seen to be done” imports the important reality of perception. Perception is as real as reality and perception of corruption is as corrosive to the body politic as real corruption itself. It engenders mistrust, misconduct and actual corruption. People act both on the reality they experience and that which they perceive.

The repositioning by President Lungu at this early stage in his presidency of Chief Justice Irene Mambilima from her high voltage position as Chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) where she was wrongly or rightly accused of bias towards the governing party, so far without evidence of any wrong doing, to the highest and most potent of legal and political positions of Chief Justice of Zambia in one breath, raises the spectre of the essence of the old adage.

What if she was promised the coveted position predicated on her swinging the election results one way or the other?


There are one or two concerns for that. First, and this hinges on the appointing authority himself, it is the nature of the just-ended presidential by-election in Zambia. The January 20th, 2015 election was the most closely contested election ever held in the history of Zambia – 807,925 votes for President Edgar Lungu of PF and 780,168 votes for Hakainde Hichilema of the UPND. With the difference of just over 27,000 votes, the election results would have gone either way. It raises the issue of legitimacy after the fact. If the disparity was gigantic, perhaps, the issue would be minimized. The urgency under which the president appointed the Chief Justice (subject to ratification by Parliament), who was the determining factor and guardian of the just over 27,000 votes which determined who the president would be, may nurture forbidden inferences. Some may wonder: What if she was promised the coveted position predicated on her swinging the election results one way or the other? Or, what if the appointment is expediently engineered in order to prevent would be petitioners from making head ways on this issue? These, of course, are only speculations, but in the framework of legal correctness, they raise fundamental questions germane to the discussions of corruption in Zambia.

Second, it is the issue of Chief Justice Mambilima being perceived to be impartial in future presidential elections should the results be judicially challenged, for example. This is a serious thinking person’s food for thought in a democracy. This thinking isn’t for the faint of heart. This thinking isn’t amenable to reflexive knee -jerk reaction. Insults don’t answer questions.

The ghosts of this most powerful phrase (“Justice must not only be done, it must also be seen to be done”) in the annals of justice could lie dormant for years and generations, but it’s spirit could rise again and again and again. The reign of the former Acting Chief Justice Lombe Chibesakunda was partly marked by controversy because of this very perception that something was wrong or untoward in her appointment even though she herself may have been upright. The controversy was fuelled by some perceptions. Perceptions are real. The Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) went to court to challenge her continued stay, albeit, she had reached retirement age. It is ironic that the same LAZ has now applauded President Lungu’s appointment of Justice Mambilima as Chief Justice given the history.

Would the Judiciary of which she was the head actually be able to remove her? This is in reference to the unforeseeable (but probable) position that these elections (or similar-situated ones) were challenged in court and she was called upon to make judgment. There will be developed bad blood within the legal and judiciary system in Zambia. President Sata had really lobbed Machiavelli in the spokes of the justice quotient of Zambia whose ill effects may echo for generations. The Zambian judiciary is perceived rightly or wrongly as corrupt and the Chief Justiceship tenure of Madam Lombe Chibesakunda did not help, particularly because of the manner in which it was politically maintained. Some perceived the judicial results of some by-elections as payback time in the politics of political survival. Some of the consequences and legal and political implications of Chief Justice Chibesakunda’s tenure will not be known for generations, but surface they will.

Thus, it was not surprising that much jubilation was accorded Chief Justice Mambilima’s appointment because of the hiccups generated by Chief Justice Chibesakunda’s tenure. We knew Chief Justice Chibesakunda. We know Chief Justice Mambilima. Both are impeccable and moral ladies as individual human beings. The old adage, however, goes the extra distance. It probes into the perception of the people out there.

Again, how will Chief Justice Mambilima acquit herself after the next election, if the presidential results are challenged and she remains Chief Justice? How will some of the players perceive her? Again, it is not only the reality that counts here, it is also the perception. Will some people who will lose, not recast their suspicions to her appointment as Chief Justice so soon in fact after President Lungu had won the presidency and she was the chief at ECZ which ratified the narrow electoral victory of the appointing authority? And then think of the soon-coming 2016 presidential elections, would it not reasonably be foreseen that the PF are setting a stage for a win (whether it will be clear-cut or controversial)?

Admittedly, Chief Justice Mambilima was the substantive Deputy Chief Justice before President Sata played his legal gymnastics. Surely as reigning Deputy Chief Justice she deserves the position, but the context and timing of this appointment is injurious to the norms of fundamental justice, especially in reference to a much closed election under which the just appointed Chief Justice presided as chief election monitor! The full implications of this appointment may echo into the future for generations.

In most democratic countries that take the adage seriously, they would not have appointed a sitting judge to head the Electoral Commission and then immediately after winning an election, appoint this judge to be the Chief Justice of the country. But then again, paraphrasing Frank Sinatra’s famous song, Zambia has always done it its own way. 2016 is around the corner and then we will know whether Zambia’s ways of doing things have been the right ways. January 2015 to September 2016 promises Zambians the greatest political rides of their lives.

Co-authored by: Charles Mwewa and Dr. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa

Charles Mwewa is the author of Zambia: Struggles of My People and the two volume study of President Michael Sata entitled, King Cobra Has Struck and Allergic to Corruption. His latest book is Legal Aspects of Landlord and Tenant Law in Canada.

Dr. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa is the author of Class Struggles in Zambia and the Fall of Kenneth Kaunda as well as Thoughts Are Free: Prison Experience and Reflections on Law and Politics in General. His latest book is The Politics of Judicial Diversity.

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35 COMMENTS

  1. She has been corruptly elected
    Not fit for the job
    She was paid to win the election to the man who has rewarded her

    If you doubt you are silly ans should be handed to ISIS now

    Thanks

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    • The friends of UPND( Rebel MPs from PF & MMD) have advised the party to rethink about their presidential candidate for 2016. After travelling the country campaigning for HH, they have seen that just like Kabimba, HH is not saleable and cannot win an election(Presidential or parliamentary). They contend that in what ever form you package HH, it will be impossible for him to win. They are therefore suggesting Garry Nkombo or Fekix Mutati takes over the leadership of UPND. only then will there be a chance for the UPND to form the next govt.

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    • The fatefully awaits parliament whether to rectify Justice Mambilima as Chief Justice.
      With by elections looming as MMD kicked off 5 MPs, surely the opposition would win especially UPND. Otherwise, the handling of last election results were compromised at the expense of Mambilima. Had they verified with all 150 Constituencies, would be talking in a best democratic way. In order from justice to prevail over, no biases are allowed in the justice system. Equality before & after the law, otherwise the system will deteriorate beyond redemption.
      The Skeleton Key
      ~206~????????

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    • It is in the interest of UPND critically do a self search as to why we lost the last elections. Looking outside of our own party for excuses will not help us going forward and plan for 2016. Lets not blame the chief justice. Think about what went wrong with in us:
      1. Use of hate speech by one tabloid against Lungu during the campaigns did not help matters.
      2. Trusting the Muvi TV to run our campaign on their TV. They did a very bad job of clearing showing they are novices in the game. There negative , ill conceived messages AGAINST Lungu was a plus for him.
      3.We made mistake participating in that debate organised by Costa. We exposed our HH. Chipimo and Edith came out better. Lungu knew this and tactifully avoided the debate.
      4.Daniel Munkombwe statements did not help matters.

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    • @Mumbezhi you a hard core tribalist .You have not given reasons as why HH and Kabimba are not sellable.The fore gone conclusion is that because there Tonga so they cant be president.Why Gary is because he is married to a Bemba and he user friendly by thieves like Lungu.To close your eyes and UPND is not a party of choice ,when infact HH won ,his vote was stolen is pure Fantasy in a fools paradise.HH has grown strong than any other opposition candidate and he is likely to president in 2016 elections.The same voting partern will continue what will change is voter apathy.I see another close contest but HH will surely get it because he will guard his votes.

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    • @Mumbhezi: Gary Nkombo insults Zambians all the time. Whoever thinks he is a better bet than HH must be out of his mind or wants the UPND to die. Elyo ba Sidomark mulebelenga after posting otherwise we dont get your message

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  2. I THOUGHT SO AS WELL,THE TIMING OF THE APPOINTMENT OF MAMBILIMA WAS TOTALL WRONG,WHATEVER THE ARGUMENT. IT SEEMED SHE DID NOT DESERVE IT BUT WAS REWARDED FOR DOING SMTH IN FAVOUR OF EDGAR LUNGU IN THE JUST ENDED ELECTIONS

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    • Yes the reasoning here is correct. The timing of the appointment was bound to get everyone thinking she is being rewarded for her role in the elections-whatever the role may have been

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    • The fact that HH and his clansmen perceive the Edgar Lungu victory to have been stolen is not a perception shared by many Zambians as Hamalengwa wants us to believe. It is clear there were a lot of electoral malpractices in Southern Provinces considering that it was the only province with unusually few or no spoilt votes in most polling stations. Add to this the now well known fact that UPND organised transport to give to traditional rulers that was used to transport voters to induce them to vote for HH. It is also now common knowledge that independent observers in polling stations in Southern Province were forced out with threats of violence against them. UPND sympathisers like Hamalengwa should not try and make the majority Zambians think the UPND came out clean from this election.

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  3. IF IT COMES FROM PF, IT IS LIES! IRENE MAMBILIMA WAS GIVEN HER NEW POSITION AS CHIEF JUSTICE SIMPLY BECAUSE SHE ASSISTED LUNGU TO STEAL POWER FROM HH WHO WAS GENUINELY VOTED FOR BY THE ZAMBIAN PEOPLE AS THE NEXT PRESIDENT OF ZAMBIA AFTER SATA. LUNGU STOLE POWER, WITH THE ASSISTANCE OF CITIZENS LIKE MAMBILIMA, XAVIER CHUNGU, AND FOREIGNERS LIKE RUPIAH BANDA, MUGABE DOS SANTOS, NIGERIAN MUSLIMS OF BOKO HARAM,etc. LUNGU’S MANDATE IS TO SELL OUR COUNTRY TO THESE FOREIGNERS WHO FINANCED HIM, BECAUSE HE IS ALSO FOREIGNER FROM MALAWI. JUDICIARY AND JUSTICE IN ZAMBIA IS A MOCKERY. MANY POLITICIANS HAVE PLUNDERED AND HAVE STOLEN HEAVILY FROM NATIONAL TREASURY, YET NON OF THEM HAS FACED THE WRATH OF LAW. THE REASON IS SIMPLY BECAUSE POWER IS IN THE HANDS OF CRIMINALS IN ZAMBIA, COVERING THEMSELVES.

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  4. I have said on many occasions that Zambia is a corrupt nation…everywhere there is corruption. People please themselves by imagining that only ECZ is not corrupt amidst all the rot…really!

    Dream on…

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  5. The arguments are very valid, but it is also clear that the authors are not neutral, but rather against this appointment. There is a real possibility that Irene Mambilima is the most suuitable person within range for that job, just as much as there is the possibility of the appointment being dubious. The best, I think, is to give them a period of time to work and watch them closely, then it will be more evident which way things seem most likely to be. Justice Mambilima is not necessarily a walkover.

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  6. @mumbezhi you are bird-brained lame-brained,mutton-headed,crack-brained!!!!!!!!!!!!!! you think HH can be compared to that so-called criminal president of eastern province who prints unoform for his thugs to wear and pilfer money from vendors and tax drivers.You are are moving poutergeist,incubus and a sturbon human form jumbe!!!!! just stop allegating those lies to HH becuase you even know that lungu you eastern guy stole election through ECZ from upnd.tomrot, nonsense,feedle-de-dee and feedle-fade.Just stow it!!! you uncultivated manion i wonder if you were even born by a woman

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  7. I hated sata so much ,but you never miss the water till the well runs dry.one of the reasons Is because I thought he hated/persecuted Rupiah the president I supported and voted.but I have come to realize that Sata might have meant well for zambia.Rupiah is a double crook and I now see Edgar as his duplicate.what type of a president who fails to come up with a cabinet two weeks after a by selection.I would understand if we had civil war or post election violence.as if that’s not enough,this is just a continuation.suppose it was a tripartite election where almost everything would be appointed by the presido?sata toiled for ten years in opposition and yet still found it easy to come up with cabnet and never took a length holiday a few days after elections.continual meeting those crooks at…

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    • at mfuwe till poverty levels in zambia reaches the sky.poverty is the accepted way of life in zambia.

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  8. After proving herself or himself in assignment/s, the Deputy/Assistant may win a nomination for appointment to higher position/s. This is excatly what happened here. The onus is on the legislators to accept or reject or seek further clarifications or explanations concerning the eligibilty of this particular nominee. It is wrong to speculate and engage in wishful thinking instead of addressing the issue square and straight. Like for most professionals with international exposure gained abroad at school, university or workplace, the choice of the nominee is reasonable. In actual fact, the choice has received considerable support from a cross section of society. There is no forged degree and the like.

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  9. UPND will do better listening to @ Bogus Judge. Hatred , Anger and firing disgruntled missiles at Lungu will not help them. Missing from the list by bogus judge are:
    1. Ignoring the real long time UPND members during the campaign. You took the platform from the real members and gave prominency to the mercenaries. PF refuse to dislodge their campaign manager for GBM.
    2.Pitching Andrew Banda against his father Rupiah was a big mistake.
    3. That opinion poll by MaTuvi Tv was big mistake. It took votes from u.

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    • 1.That advert about farmers money going to buy Sata,’s coffin was a very bad miscalculation.
      2.Dr. Cannisius Banda disclosure of Lungu’s medical report was bad judgement. Especially that he is medical doctor.
      3. HH was not clear about his taxing the mines. The people were looking to hear him on that. But since he was sponsored by some mining firms, he avoided it at the displeasure of those wanting more taxes from the mines.
      4. The Campaign song was the best followed by Sondashi.
      5.Using Katele endorsement was a big mistake.
      6. The ant-rigging squad did a very bad job . That Dante Sondashi should not be allowed to be anywhere near UPND.
      7.Cornellius Mweetwa as UPND spokesman ………what a flop!

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    • @UPND DIE hard let me tell you and get me right.We are not fools or dull.We know you are not UPND and that your secreat code is to continue to rule Zambia at ever cost to insure your existance in zambia is assured.To you every election is a refrandum for Barotseland.You will continue to fear your Shadow,when HH is a saint.Remember only the truth will stand a length of time.UPND will be there for a long time thats why its called Foward.PF will cramble like MMD in 2016.Lungu has created a lot enemies on the way to his throne and we will fall down hard ,faster than lightening.Keep on rejoicing form stolen victory only for a while.

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  10. A comparative reference to HH vs ECL past election results must be made objectively. HH’s apparent massive support gained in Southern, Western and North-Western Provinces was boosted by Guy Scott’s hatred for Edgar Lungu.

    Scott served the interests of a well-known cartel that wanted to prop up Kabimba, later switched to Kaseba and Sampa whom the cartel hoped to perpetuate the exploitation of national financial resources.

    As Scott went on rampage of trying to tarnish Lungu’s credibility, HH was allowed to campaign and consolidate his grip of the Tongas, Lozis, Lenjes, Solis, Ilas; and solicited support of the meek sheep among the Luvales and Kaondes. Hence the so called close fight between HH & ECL. However, RB tipped tables in favour of ECL. But 2016 will be tough for HH.

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  11. @Zambezian. As long as we do not confront our mistakes we will not go forward as our symbol says. We must be real to ourselves and learn from our mistakes. Insulting Lungu Day in and Day out will not give us a winning formula for 2016. I am real UPND die hard and I mean what I say.

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  12. @ UPND die hard. I agree with all you have said but ….the biggest problem you have is HH. He is no presidential material and is not marketable.

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    • So Lungu is marketable….what are his qualities that were used to market him that are better than HH?

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  13. My brother @Zambezian. Our issues must not be with PF , MMD FDD or any party. Our issues must be with electorate. We must strive to win the electorate on our side. We tried in the last election to win them on our side but along the way we made serious errors of judgement in our campaign strategy and this cost us votes. Our campaign manager Mr Dipak Patel should gives a full report on how we performed. Some of the things I have mentioned should be in his report if he is honest enough.

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  14. @Mumbezhi, I am not sure about Mutati Felix of Garry. We can probably repackage HH. But as I have said before we need to have different strategy. No Muvi TV, No Mercenaries, No Munkombwe, No Andrew Banda, No GBM and No Pilato. All these mercenaries destroyed our party.

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    • But do not repackage him like you are selling boom. Giving us a long list of the boards on which he has served and the degrees he holds and where he got these is like telling us about the contents of boom detergent paste and not a presidential candidate. Zambians want to hear more about his experience in community or public service.

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  15. Politics
    VICE-President George Kunda’s wife, Irene, has been sued by her late brother’s widow for trying to grab the deceased’s house. Before Ndola local court principal presiding magistrate Jona Mwaba sitting with senior local court magistrate Mary Muke was Maria Malama, the widow of Mukuwa Mwize (Irene’s brother), of house number 1427 Ndeke Township.

    Maria told court that Irene wanted to chase her from her “matrimonial” house and turn it into a museum.

    “My husband died in 2003. So early this year, I started receiving my husband’s relatives trying to chase me from the house. First, my late husband’s niece came to the house and told me that she was instructed by her aunt, Mrs Kunda to chase me from the house because it did not belong to me,” she said.

    “Even the two boys that I…

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  16. Iwe UPND die Hard. Your party is already dead. As long as you HH, Nkombo, Mweetwa, Halumango, Dr Banda and others you are a dead party. Nevers and his MMD are gone, You are next to trashed into the political dust bin.

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  17. HH said he wanted to make her Chief Justice. Look, the results were clear and the election was very transparent. UPND only started complaining when it was eminent that the defeat was small. Why do you think UPND were saying “if there is a difference of 5,000 votes, can we petition the results?”

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  18. ACCORDING TO ECZ, THE VOTER TURN OUT PER PROVINCE IN THE 2015 PRESIDENTIAL POLLS WAS AS FOLLOWS:
    SP: 49%
    NWP: 38.2%
    LSKP: 36.8%
    CBP: 33.2%
    WP: 29.8%
    NP:28.3%
    MP: 26.5%
    CP: 26%
    LP:24.1%
    EP: 22.7%
    IT IS VERY CLEAR THAT THE TONGAS WERE MORE TRIBAL THAN ALL THE OTHER TRIBES IN THEIR VOTING. IN SP, 90 OF ALL VOTES WENT TO THEIR FELLOW TONGA. THEY VOTED WITH PASSION, HATRADE AND TRIBALISM. THE TONGAS HAD A HIDDEN AGENDA AND PLAN. SOME SORT OF CLANDESTINE PROGRAM. I WILL MAKE SURE MY WIFE AND ALL MY CHILDREN REGISTER AS VOTERS AND WILL ENSURE RHAT THEY VOTE IN 2016.THE VOTING MARGINS BETWEEN SP AND OTHER PROVINCES ARE OF “TRIBAL PROPORTIONS”. THIS SHOULD BE A LESSON TO THOSE OF US FROM OTHER PROVINCES. IN 2016 WE SHOULD VOTE ENMASS. THIS TRIBALISM IS MOST PRACTICED BY TONGAS.

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    • YOU FOOL, IT’S NOT A HIDDEN AGENDA. WE THE TONGAS ARE THE INDIGENOUS ZAMBIANS, AND IT HURTS US SO MUCH TO SEE YOU FOREIGNERS DESTROYING OUR BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY BECAUSE YOUR FINGERS ARE ALWAYS ITCHING TO RECEIVE CORRUPT STOLEN MONEY FROM NATIONAL TREASURY AND FROM INDIVIDUALS. WE SHALL ONCE AGAIN VOTE FOR HH IN 2016, AND THIS TIME WE WANT 95%OF REGISTERED VOTERS TO VOTE AND GIVE HH A 99.9% YES VOTE! IF OUR MOVE TO CORRECT THE ROT BY VOTING FOR THE RIGHTFUL CANDIDATE IS PERCEIVED BY YOU CROOKS TRIBAL, THEN GO AHEAD AND CALL US TRIBAL, AND THAT WILL NOT CHANGE OUR RESOLVE TO LOOK FOR A RIGHT PERSON TO RUN OUR COUNTRY.

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  19. Well written by professional writers. Veiled though of malice! It’s inciting the faint hearted. Lungu’s promises to be the best president Zambia has seen. Of course, other people won’t agree with me. It’s the nature of democracy except for the infallible ….. (Guess who?)

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