The Civil Society Constitution Agenda (CiSCA) has said that it is outraged by plans by the Patriotic Front to repeal the current Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) Act and replace it with an Act that will serve its own partisan interest.
In a statement released to the Media and signed by the Chairman Bishop Mambo, CiSCA said that it condemned in the strongest term the deteriorating rule of law and constitutionalism and called on the Republican President, who is also a lawyer, to tame his cadres and stop them from intimidating people who offer contrary views.
“As a former member of LAZ, we expect the President to come out strongly against his party members who are abusing their position to silence LAZ for simply exercising its role, ” read the statement.
Below is the full statement
For Immediate Release
Lusaka, 27 March 2017
The Civil Society Constitution Agenda (CiSCA) is outraged by plans by the Patriotic Front to repeal the current Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) Act and replace it with an Act that will serve its own partisan interest. CiSCA strongly rejects this, yet another scheme, by a government that consistently and ashamedly manipulates the law to suit its own narrow partisan interests.
The proposal is not only impractical but further proves that the Patriotic Front wants to establish a one party dictatorial state by systemically silencing independent non partisan voices such as the independent media as they have done with the Post Newspaper, tried to do with Komboni Radio and Muvi TV and now the professional body of LAZ. As CiSCA we are convinced that this is a well calculated ploy to weaken the legal fraternity and consequently access to justice by all.
LAZ is an association of lawyers, and we all know that Hon. Kelvin Sampa is not a lawyer. We therefore wonder why he is moving a motion to destroy a club that he is not even a member of.
Below are some of the reasons we reject the proposals to repeal the LAZ act:
I. Having many associations will erode the integrity of the legal profession which LAZ has carried over the years.
II. LAZ is a strong voice that the nation needs. Silencing LAZ will weaken citizens’ ability to keep checks and balances on the government.
III. The creation of more associations will create a chaotic situation, and promote crookedness as the mechanisms for disciplining lawyers would be weakened.
IV. All jurisdictions in the Commonwealth have only one national association or council for lawyers.
V. Shutting down LAZ will render many citizens jobless and without a source of living as the association is an employer. Further, the association provides free legal support to the less privileged through facilities such as the National Legal Aid Clinic for Women and its mandatory pro bono requirement for all its members. Without LAZ, legal services will now be a preserve of Hon. Sampa and others who can afford legal fees.
What is even most unfortunate about this organised confusion is that those behind it have singled out LAZ President Ms. Linda Kasonde and have thrown all sorts of unfounded accusations against
her. They have called her names simply for speaking the truth that unsettles those in power.
Before being a President of LAZ, Ms. Kasonde is a citizen of this country who is entitled to freedom of expression as provided for by the Constitution of the Republic of Zambia . The Constitution clearly states that every citizen has a right to freedom of expression which includes the freedom to hold an opinion, and the freedom to receive or impart information or ideas, which is what LAZ – through Ms. Kasonde has done. No citizen of this country should be harassed or vilified for simply holding an opinion on national matters.
People driven, popularised constitutionalism in ZambiaIt is common knowledge that LAZ is not run by an individual, and all the statements issued by the association through its president are a result of extensive consultations. A LAZ statement is not a result of the imagination of one person, but it is a collective responsibility of lawyers that make LAZ. These lawyers include state counsels, government officials and private practitioners. The role of Ms. Kasonde is to simply project the collective view and professional opinion of these lawyers. To target her just because she is the current President of LAZ is barbaric. It is an act aimed at separating an individual from an organisation.
If there are people concerned about how LAZ is operating, let them use the right channels provided by the LAZ Act instead of abusing their presence in Parliament, and sending cadres to overrun a legal entity playing its legal role.
To this end, we condemn in the strongest term the deteriorating rule of law and constitutionalism. We call on the Republican President who is also a lawyer to tame his cadres and stop them from intimidating people who offer contrary views. As a former member of LAZ, we expect the President to come out strongly against his party members who are abusing their position to silence LAZ for simply exercising its role. But even if the President does not do anything, we will not sit back. Any injustice cannot carry on forever.
Injustice has always had a short lifespan. We warn Hon. Sampa and those he is working with on this injustice against LAZ and by extension us the Zambian people that contrary to the current Executive we are not gullible and we know what the manoeuvres are about. . Soon, this will come back to haunt the same people who are currently excited about destroying LAZ. The Patriotic Front needs to realise that since they are in power they have the responsibility and are accountable to all the Zambian people and should not expect any less criticism from all non-state actors. It is ridiculous of them to expect every non-state institution and individuals to sing their praises. Do they need a Grade 8 Civics lesson on ‘checks and balances?’
Bishop John Mambo
Chairperson – #CivilSocietyConstitutionAgenda #CiSCA