By Peter Sinkamba
Former Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda has accused Constitutional Court Justices of “rewriting the law by making a presumption on the wishes of the Parliament or establishing some strange interchangeability with parliament,” which in his view “is impropriety and illegitimacy”.
In a statement published by the Lusaka Times this morning, and signed off as PF Chairman and former Finance Minister, honorable Chikwanda says there is need for deep thinking in the nation. He said that justices should have the highest levels of intellect shrouded in ingrained habits to search widely so that they do not interchange facts with vague judgments and opinions.
“The justices have (sic) the highest levels of intellect shrouded in the ingrained habits to search widely so that they do not interchange facts with value (sic) judgments and opinions – this is why they are called learned. Respectability of the judiciary must be anchored on propriety and decisions which are totally above board and beyond reproach,” he said.
As a way forward, honorable Chikwanda has opposed proliferation of courts and instead, as a cost-saving measure proposed the scrapping of the Constitutional Court and holding of constitutional court sessions at the Supreme Court, where there is “experience, maturity and track records”.
“Going forward, we must pay urgent attention to remedying this situation. There will be a compelling need to avoid proliferation of courts. With hindsight, constitutional issues are a rarity; the best and most cost effective action would have been to constitute constitutional court sessions from the supreme court where you have experience, maturity and track records. We cannot ordain wisdom and requisite experience by bureaucratic fiats, no matter how elaborate myth-making may be.” he added.
As the Green Party, we respect the fact that a Zambian citizen, honorable Chikwanda has a constitutional right to criticize any Court judgment.
Whilst we agree with him on high intellectual tenets and capabilities of a judge, as well as the fact that respectability of the judiciary must be anchored on propriety and decisions which are totally above board and beyond reproach, however, we believe is economical with the truth.
Firstly, we believe that as Former Minister of Finance, he was the central person to moving the Constitution Amendment Bill which proposed the creation of the Concourt. No Bill which has a financial implication can be introduced in Parliament without express consent of the Minister of Finance.
Secondly, as a Cabinet Minister, and Member of Parliament, he personally played a pivotal role, not only in the establishment of the court itself, but also in the nomination, ratification and final appointment of the judges he is now criticizing for incompetence, impropriety and illegitimacy. He also played a key role to ensure the court he is now blaming for unnecessary costs, is fully financed.
So, without apologizing to the Nation for his various roles he played to establish and constitute the Court, what is he talking about? Is it sour grapes?
To whom is he shifting the blame for the quality of the judges serving on that bench? Is he shifting the blame to his former Cabinet boss, President Lungu, or what?
Thirdly, by signing-off as PF Chairman, is he detaching PF from establishment of the Court, let alone the quality of the judges serving on that bench? Is he shifting blame from PF to the Presidency? Is it a sign that PF is cracking or indeed PF detaching itself from President Lungu’s decisions?
We believe there is more to honorable Chikwanda’s statement than eyes can see. Perhaps, it is high time for President Lungu to think deeply and open his eyes.
The earlier he makes a decision on some of the proposals we presented to him concerning reconstituting the Concourt by recruiting from the Commonwealth competent and experienced judges to fill up the the 13-plus “vacancies” at the Concourt, the better for him and the Nation.
As an old adage goes: forewarned is forearmed.
The Author is the President of Green Party of Zambia