Monday, June 17, 2024

Reform the Judiciary, How can an appeal take more than 10 years without being determined?


By Sean Tembo – PeP President

1. To say that we need to reform our judiciary is an understatement. In fact, what we need is a total overhaul of the entire system so that it can better deliver on its mandate. When it comes to the Zambian judiciary, my biggest bone of contention is the slow pace at which it delivers justice. Over the years the criminal justice system at the magistrate level has seen some very good improvements, but the same cannot be said at High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court level.

2. In my view, the Zambian judiciary is largely to blame for this country’s underdevelopment over the years, due to its failure to dispense justice on a timely basis thereby making Zambia less attractive as an investment destination. When compared to other jurisdictions in the region, the performance of our judiciary is extremely poor. Imagine, as we speak right now the Supreme Court of Zambia is sitting on appeals that are more than 10 years old such as that involving Mr Aaron Chungu and Mr Faustin Kabwe. How can an appeal take more than 10 years without being determined sure? Where is the justice in that? As a nation, courtesy of President Levy Mwanawasa, we have taken very good care of our men and women in lobes, but the question is; have these men and women really taken care of the country in return? Have they discharged their mandate in return for the really high perks we give them?

3. When you go to the High Court in Lusaka and you look at the multi-million Kwacha Landcruiser VXs parked there for judges, with their chauffeurs standing by and polishing the vehicles the whole day, you would think there is a high powered CEO business conference going on. You wouldn’t think those vehicles belong to judicial officers of one of the poorest countries in the world. At High Court, Court of Appeal, Supreme Court and Constitutional Court level, our judicial officers there are the most well remunerated and yet they appear to be the laziest. On the other hand, at Magistrates level, the judicial officers there are very poorly remunerated and yet they deliver justice with amazing efficiency. What a misnomer! Except for constitutional office holders, our judges are the only ones l know of who continue to get as much as 90% of their salary after their retirement, and when they die, their spouse continue to get 50% of the monthly salary until they also die. With such kind of extremely good conditions of service, one would expect our judiciary to be the most productive arm of the state. But no. To the contrary they have, over the years perfected the art of masking their incompetence and laziness with threats of contempt of court, if you question them. But these people get paid taxpayers’ money. Our money. So why shouldn’t we question their poor delivery of justice?

4. In other jurisdictions, an urgent matter is really urgent and if a judge has to be woken up from sleep or pulled out of another siting to consider it, they will. But here in Zambia it does not matter whether you attach a certificate of urgency to your matter at the High Court. It will take more than a week before it is even heard, and in the meantime it would have been superseded by events. And the court would not even be remorseful that it did not hear the matter on time. The judiciary has really made a joke of this country. Indeed, our peers in the region see us as jokers. But where did we really go wrong? As a nation we gave the best of whatever little that we have to our men and women in lobes but have not been repaid. What should we do next about it? Maybe we should revise their conditions of service to those of ordinary civil servants since they have failed to live up to the exceptional conditions of service. Maybe we should withdraw those chauffeured multi million Kwacha Toyota Landcruiser VXs so that they buy their own Toyota Allions and Vitz. Once they start taking their jobs seriously then we can reinstall their perks?

5. But the bigger question is; what has been the impact of the slow delivery of justice by the higher courts? To start with, total chaos across the country. Take for instance the confusion taking place in political parties such as Harry Kalaba’s Democratic Party. This confusion has been on-going for months and chances are that it will not be resolved for the next couple of years, if the MMD, UNIP and NDC confusion examples are anything to go by. As a result of the failure to resolve the DP wrangle which is currently in court, on a timely basis, the DP lost the opportunity to file in a candidate in the Kabwata by-election. That is undermining our democracy. Political dispute cases are supposed to be urgent and should be resolved with finality by the courts within a matter of days or weeks at the most. They should not be allowed to go on and on forever, as the case has been in this country so far. But our judiciary seems to be oblivious to the anarchy that is created by their laziness, incompetence and lack of sense of urgency. But now that we have a new President and a new Chief Justice, should we expect the performance of our judiciary to improve? Or perhaps appeals such as those of Aaron Chungu and Faustin Kabwe will still be taking more than 10 years to be decided upon? Well that remains to be seen, but am not optimistic about it. Our judiciary has indeed developed into a monolith of injustice that is ready to devour anyone who challenges it.


  1. Another far toooooo long unreadable article by this guy who got 0.000001% of the votes during last election, and ZERO seats in parliament. Why does this guy get all this attention? Nobody supports him!

  2. Faustin Kabwe and Aaron Chungu aren’t poor, illiterate villagers. They’re urban professionals with legal representation. If their appeal can take ten years to be heard in the Supreme Court, spare a thought for the illiterate villager. There are also cases of accused people in Zambia who are seemingly free but the court judgements that freed them are not publicly available. There are also convictions which were secured in lower courts but were opposed by the DPP on appeal in superior courts. Where does this sort of thing happen in the world? A superior court doing its duty properly is supposed to send such a case back to the magistrate court for retrial if the DPP does not support the conviction.

  3. On juridical reforms I would agree. This is required especially the judges that refused to hear the 2016 presidential petition. We need better lawyers in general. How can a constitution be ignored like the previous regime attempted to do and no lawyer stands up. In other countries, you would have seen large team of lawyers come together to protect the constitution.

  4. Mr Sean Tembo, these are issues we want to hear.
    How these judges are overpaid at the expense of poor service delivery.
    Was the high conditions of service an indirect bribe from the government and party in power.
    Our judiciary is next to Zambia police in terms of bad perspection.

  5. Wise Commenter (not commentator?) @3, u hv reminded me of something that I had just about forgotten. The conduct of Constitutional Court judges in 2016 requires a probe. There’s I suspect a group of judges who met secretly to circumvent the course of justice.

  6. Sean Tembo, on this one, you got me on your side !!!
    This is the type of issues we want you to be raising, then we can exert pressure on UPND Government to work towards improving them.
    If the highest judicial officers are NOT performing, then Indeed, they DO NOT deserve the high perks they get, paid by taxpayers money. Although, I admittedly, it’s NOT easy to just get rid of those perks, they get high perks to PREVENT the Judges from being vulnerable to corruption.

  7. On this one point, I totally agree with Sean Tembo. Our judiciary system is very poor. A radical undertaking is necessary. Yet you listen to our lawyers, majority of them are so proud as the most learned. Yet, their delivery of work is such a sham. They are the worst performing profession in Zambia, yet the most proud and extortionate!

  8. Nolle prosequi!
    So then the game goes, Nevers Sentenced for corruption, he is back on the streets wining and dining with us. H² known for his corruption and kickbacks during the 1990s, well he won the election a while ago and he is at it again. FTJ gave Kambela a DDT and LPM got himself a presidency at a silver platter sending Mazoka to his early grave with delayed justice skewed towards LPM. Captain Solo and Dean died in prison over delayed justice. Chungu walked free. What do you smell? I Smell money! No I smell freedom! Chitotela walked too! Chitalu walked! Naiwe wine Sean you walked from Botswana! Just how damn are the prosecutors? I smell money! No its freedom.

  9. Extradite Sean, he has since found his tongue and sounds wiser. The smell of freedom! Mmm mmh I smell money! Did Kapoko Walk? Did Richard Sakala Walk? Money! No its Freedom! Give some credit to the Judiciary at least they ruled and gave Nevers Mumba MMD and made Mutati touch the ground. DP you said? How about NDC when one faction is now practically UPND. Money or Freedom? H²’s numerous petition appeals touched the ground. Money or Freedom? Are they independent? Or is reforms you seek? Or Judiciary is still great I think.


  11. Speak to the Governing party that ruled for the last 10 years
    Dont waste our time here having to read your nonsense

  12. On the other hand is the American justice system. They say 90% of the cases don’t reach the courts instead they are solved the Plea Deals and arbitration. The problem is the poor get longer sentences while the rich can walk away with just probation.

  13. Yes there must be time limit for cases to finish. We are at the whims of judges and magistrates everytime adjournment or still waiting for ruling etc. Just to get K1000 from a creditor can take you two years or more in zambia. Let the new chief justice bring reforms in the judiciary.

  14. I join with those siding with Sean Tembo on this one! The Judiciary had positioned itself as a no go area where scrutiny on performance is concerned. Criticism on operations of the Judiciary is considered a taboo but here Mr. Tembo is saying the Judiciary is no sacred ground and its incompetence especially on timeliness of determining matters brought before it has become detrimental to national development. Imagine the cited unresolved cases spanning administrations without consideration that the delays are holding people involved to ransom on personal freedom!

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