By Judith Mulenga CiSCA Chairperson
CiSCA Statement on Constitutionalism at the First Anniversary of UPND Rule
The Civil Society Constitution Agenda (CiSCA) urges the Judiciary through the Chief Justice, Dr. Mumba Malila SC to strengthen constitutionalism under the UPND rule. The Judiciary led by a strong human rights advocate such as the current Chief Justice is uniquely placed to ensure that the government, ‘fosters a better democracy, rule of law, restoring order, respecting human rights, liberties and freedoms’ as stated by the Republican President at his inauguration but also as asserted in the UPND’s 2021 Manifesto. The Judiciary is also better placed to provide checks and balances to the Executive because it is more independent than the Legislature that is weakened by having some of its members straddling the Executive as well.
Though the President’s inaugural speech set the tone of the new government’s intention for a marked departure from the toxic governance of threats, violence and victimization of citizens of the previous regime, there has arguably been, during the previous 12 months, ugly incidences of contra indications of intolerance and undemocratic behaviors by cadres, disrespect and violations of human rights by the state and threats to liberties and freedoms rearing their ugly heads and all against the provisions of our Constitution.
We have witnessed unconstitutional utterances by some top party officials, unconstitutional acts by the Zambia Army in a case where 2 youths had instant corporal punishment meted out on allegations of insulting the head of state and threats of impeding liberties and freedoms of citizens. One case in point that has emerged as a blight of the one year in office is the continued detention of Mumbi Phiri on allegations of murder without being brought to court. Since Mumbi Phiri is a political figure, her continued incarceration only serves to confirm the slow pace with which the current government is moving to address the significant, well documented lapses in our judicial system. CiSCA notes that the case of Ms Mumbi Phiri is not an isolated one, but is one that will no doubt be construed to impute political punishment. Yes her conduct and utterances as the second topmost PF party official was at most time offensive and insufferable but no more than any other member of her party. Her continued pretrial detention is a breach of the constitutional right to speedy and fair trail and it is inhumane treatment contrary to Articles 18 and 15.
In his inaugural address to the Zambian adjudicators and support staff, the Chief Justice asserted that, ‘Our Constitution is very clear. Judicial authority derives from the people and in our exercise of that authority we are enjoined to be just and promote accountability. That our courts have the jurisdiction in all matters concerning breach of the law, civil and criminal, as well as in the interpretation and enforcement of the Constitution, is beyond peradventure,’ end of quote. Dr. Malila further admitted the short comings of the Judiciary, ‘We have not always performed as well as we should. Our justice system is today in substantial discredit for fairly fathomable reasons. And it is no secret that lately the Judiciary has been under massive and unrelenting criticism from members of the public. Very critical comments about the manner in which our courts, well some of them, have handled matters of immense public interest, especially those which implicate democratic governance and the rule of law have been repeatedly ventilated publicly.’
As CiSCA we believe that the Chief Justice has the authority entrusted to him by us the people to accelerate the transformation of constitutionalism in our nation by implementing even 20% of his plans as he espoused in his inaugural address.