Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Book Review: My Trodden Path – An Autobiography by Justice Chibesakunda, Zambia’s First Female Lawyer


By Dickson Jere’s compilations

“My trodden path” is a fast-paced read which chronicles the illustrious life of Her Lady Justice Lombe Chibesakunda. I was able to read it within few hours. In many instances, the Lady Justice is the woman of “firsts” in terms of breaking records.

“I was the first female (trained) lawyer in Zambia,” she writes on page 42 of her recently released eight chapters book.

Justice Chibesakunda is a graduate of the prestigious Grays Inn Chambers in the UK where she was trained and mentored by great legal luminaries such as Lord Dennings and Justice Megarry.

At age 29, she had already made history – became the first female Solicitor General of Zambia and Minster of State – appointed by President Kenneth Kaunda shortly after she was elected Member of Parliament for Matero constituency.

However, her stay was short-lived as two years later she was appointed Zambia’s first Ambassador to Japan at the age of 31 years.

The 154 page autobiography begins with the foreword written by former Chief Justice Mathews Ngulube who knew her from the time they studied law together at Grays Inn.

“Her story should inspire especially the young lady, if not all young people hailing from humble beginnings,” Ngulube wrote, as he referred to the village upbringing of Justice Chibesakunda.

Daughter of Chief Chibesakunda, the lady Justice was schooled at Chipempi Girls Secondary School before she ventured into law.

“I was a cultured girl, just like many other girl children in the village,” she writes while reminiscing her childhood in Northern Province where she was brought up as Bisa girl.

Achievements and failure to get rid of the Wiga and Gowns

Justice Chibesakunda narrates on how her first appearance in Court as a young lawyer in Zambia before Chief Justice Brian Doyle who was very tough and firm with young advocates.

“Before going to Court, I drank some sherry to gather courage to face him,” she disclosed.

After her brief stint at the Ministry of Justice, she quit and joined the private practice at the firm – Jacques and Partners.

The illustrious career of Justice Chibesakunda is admirable. From the village girl to international legal expert and now Judge President of the COMESA Court of Justice.

“I can safely say I have served my country and the world community diligently,” she writes in the Epilogue of the book.

Nevertheless, she detailed a number of achievements as acting Chief Justice. However, she says she failed to change the regalia of lawyers and judges (Wigs and Gowns) as both the Bar and Bench opposed.

Justice Chibesakunda was also first female Zambia’s High Commissioner to the UK and later Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Zambia. The book is worth the read and I recommend it to young people especially those from humble backgrounds. Justice Chibesakunda story is that of resilience and a good example to young girls – it is possible to achieve your dreams.

Chief Justice Mumba Malila, SC, summed it up aptly when he stated thus: “That Madam Justice Chibesakunda is probably the first female legal practitioner the country has ever produced is not mere hyperbole. It is true, undeniably true. This book, which immortalizes Madam Chibesakunda’s life and legacy, is a must read.”

I agree with Dr Malila even though I think she should have given us a detailed account beyond the 154-pages which includes pictures. Kudos to her for having penned this book – rare phenomenon in Zambia.

Diplomatic Service Politics

Upon her appointment as Zambia’s High Commissioner to London, Lady Justice Lombe Chibesakunda reveals startling details in her recently released book – “My Trodden Path”.
She writes: “I was not welcomed by those officers who had directly come from Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Lusaka. There was a lot of back-stabbing and applying of the cockroach sort of syndrome of pulling each other down. I was recalled to Zambia in 1981 when unknown person had reported that I had sold a number of vehicles, which I had never done and was proven innocent..”

She was later posted to Zambia Embassy in Brussels, which proved to be even worse! She narrates; “It was bad for me. This is where I saw immaturity as a nation; Zambians stabbing each other in the back just to grab a post. I came back to Zambia with a sore heart….”

Her case was worsened because she was a lawyer who was appointed from outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, so the career diplomats made her life difficult.

Her Removal and LAck of Support from PF and LAZ

It appears Justice Lombe Chibesakunda was not happy with her removal from the bench as acting Chief Justice. She writes: “When he passed (President Michael Sata), there was sadly no hope for me from there, and no support from comrades he left behind. I shared a few words with President Lungu, and I was the first person to be removed under his administration, causing me to withdraw from public life entirely. The Patriotic Front, as it stands in this current moment, remains far from the mark of the original strong ideologies and passion for revolution on behalf of societies most vulnerable.”

Justice Chibesakunda narrates how she was appointed Chief Justice in 2011 by President Michael Sata but the dark forces ganged up against her and blocked her ratification. No one defended her including those in the ruling Patriotic Front.

The Lady Justice expressed shock that the PF did not defend her even though she was appointed by President Sata.

“The pain of feeling alone at this time made it more of a strong challenge, as the Patriotic Front, the party which had nominated my position, refused to defend or speak on my behalf in Parliament or outside. They were mute by the visitation of God or whatever reason.”

“It hurt me deeply to be questioned every day, with no open support from any side,” she bemoaned the treatment she received after her appointment.

“Another group that waged war against my appointment was in Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) itself,” she writes, without making reference to the Court case which LAZ took out to block her appointment.

Reserved Admiration of President Hichilema Hichilema

Justice Lombe Chibesakunda has extolled President Hakainde Hichilema’s political journey saying she greatly admires him and hopes he will deliver on his promises. She said President Hakainde faced a similar experience to her when he entered politics but survived and recorded the “greatest election victory” since 1991 and the celebrations that followed could be likened to 1964 Independence Day.

“I watched the man grow, lose, and be locked consistently for every failure. The doubts the public threw toward him and the lies that were hurled were used as ammunition, as he now stands as President, with one of the greatest support Zambian people have ever offered.

“I look upon this young man with reserved admiration, and hope he achieves what has been promised,” she added.

“I remember as President Hichilema first entered the political arena, and the many questions he faced (similar to my own experience) on the validity of a businessman running for President at such a supposedly young age.”

She was saddened, she writes, that some UPND members had opposed her appointment as Chief Justice on a non-legal issue even though she qualified for the job.

“Within the UPND, my respect for many of the members of the party remains, in spite of the hurt of seeing young men and women I had watched grow old fight against my appointment over a non-legal issue,” she writes on page 114 of the 154 paged autobiography.

She insists she was qualified to be the Chief Justice despite her age and allegations that she was the relative of President Michael Sata who had appointed her to the position.

“There was no provision in the Zambian Constitution that forbade a Judge to continue serving after celebrating the 65th birthday. No one came to my defence, which could have been as simple as stating that the average retirement age of a sitting Judge is 80 in the US,” she argues.


Title: My Trodden Path – An Autobiography
Number of Pages: 154
Publisher: Sotrane Publishers
Price: K200


  1. Unfortunately I haven’t followed the life and career of Justice Chibesakunda. I don’t think she’s among the luminary ladies of the bar. My heroness is Madam Justice Florence Mumba and I don’t think I’m alone. She has never used connections to push her but performance. Further, I also shared the view that you didn’t qualify to be Chief Justice when Sata appointed you. I think it was born out of the push by Sata and Nkandu Luo to promote Bisa superiority, the same reason that they fought Mwine Lubemba when they knew that a Bisa and descendant of Ngoshe Mukote can never be installed as Chitimukulu. Anyway, it’s good that you’ve told your story but many of us held a different view and that’s the reason we didn’t rise to your defense as you correctly observed. Humble yourself

  2. The power of the pen is that it remains a record…however I don’t think that only persons from ‘humble’ beginnings need read this book..its a book for all to read there are many a person who came from very real ‘humble’ beginnings and made it the only injustice is that they opted not to ‘air’ their dismay on the outcome of things in a book….we encourage more books to be written not for the purpose of making a quick buck but rather to leave a legacy for all to read….it is however shocking to think one could have been conferred the rank of CJ despite age by simply referring to American Judges…who retire at 80

    • In any case why should we copy everything that Americans do? Since they elect fools like Trump we shoud also do the same??

  3. I love it when influencial Zambians write about their lives. We truly need more of these. Can you imagine how richer we would be if we had Simon Kapwepwe’s, Grey Zulu’s, Reuben Kamanga’s, Humphrey Mulemba’s, Annel Silungwe’s, etc memoirs? However, this is quiet an expensive book for so few pages. It is written to help those from humble backgrounds but can they afford a book at such a cost?

    • If you truly are Charles Ngoma of UNZA then you know that Chief Chibesakunda is the senior most Bisa Chief. Being a daughter of that Chief can’t be described as humble beginnings, at least by our Zambian standards. Kapweepwe’s biography is summarized in the book Kapwepwe Diaries. Grey Zulu has also written something except that most of what’s in his book has already been recounted by those that wrote theirs earlier like Sikota Wina. You’ll understand that these guys lived together and had similar experiences as freedom fighters. It’d be great to hear Anniel Silungwe’s side of the story because he left the bar unceremoniously. Many of us still view him as dishonorable after he acquitted Kambarage Kaunda of murder. That judgement dented his career in the eyes of many Zambians

    • @Ayatollah perhaps you are campaigning but iam a Bisa and would like to tell you that we have no senior most chief. May be you are factoring in the size of the village a chief presides over. Our system of rule is quite utopian in that citizens are very free and don’t need the chief’s interference in all issues.
      but keep in mind Bisas don’t have paramount chiefs.

  4. The phoney wigs born during colonial times should be stopped. I don’t know any country other than the British that makes people wear that pathetic wig and if you are black it just looks even stupid. “ Wigs were no longer required during family or civil court appearances, or when appearing before the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. Wigs, however, remain in use in criminal cases. And in Ireland, judges continued to wear wigs until 2011, until the practice was discontinued” says Google. End it and usher into the modern world. If I wear under trial under this judge, I’d be sent to jail for laughing at the ridiculousness of her wig. Maybe wear a Black wig!

  5. The truth is the PF parliamentary wing would have ratified her nomination as Chief Justice of Zambia in spite of being ineligible on account of age. However, the Clerk of the National Assembly Doris Mwinga never put her nomination on the order paper despite considerable pressure from the executive. This so annoyed the PF that they even sought the UPND’s support to have Speaker Patrick Matibini removed from his position. The UPND naturally rebuffed the PF. The Law Association of Zambia had also challenged Judge Chibesakunda’s nomination in court.

  6. Illegally acted as chief Justice and abrogated the constitution by doing so just because of that nincompoop sata who was favoring her. If she had morals she would have resigned after her term was over.

  7. Not even Edgar Lungu after succeeding Sata as President of Zambia pushed for her to get ratified as Chief Justice. Instead he let her go into retirement by dangling the COMESA Court of Justice presidency where she still qualified. This issue caused embarrassment and has been clarified by such legal luminaries as Nkaka Chekwe-Puta. Lombe Chibesakunda should not think that all Zambians do not know the facts.

  8. If there’s anything that puts an official stamp on our inferiority complex it’s the lawyers’ wigs. The speaker too. Why would a black person be dressed in fake frilled white hair if not to say she or he aspires to be white. Why can’t we create our own ornamentation for such offices if we want them. Governments don’t seem to know the negative influence such cultural trappings pass on to our younger generations. You lawyers! Have some initiative. Drop the mentallly enslaving attire.

  9. I cant call the above a book review. There’s no evaluation of the book literally or Historically. No descriptive and critical account of the book. I would have wanted to find a summary of the content, and an assessment of the value of the book. Has the reviewer recommended it or not? No, he just passes on some quotes

  10. Wigs for lawyers and judges were never meant to portray whiteness but wisdom of age as represented by grey hair. Seek understanding before u criticize.

    • Iwe kupusa. Passing superficial shortsighted opinions off as knowledge
      Who told you such lies? When did black people Young or old, have hair flowing down their shoulders?

    • You even go conveniently colour blind to defend mental slavery. Those wigs are not grey!! They are white. White like white Boris Johnson’s har or like white people’s hair!!!

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