President Hakainde Hichilema has suspended High Court Judge Wilfred Kopa Muma, following recommendations made by the Judicial Complaints Commission. This decision came after the judge was charged with willful failure to comply with the law and procedure in an old case when he served as Commissioner of Lands, and before assuming the position of a Judge.
Judge Muma has been in the news lately due to various cases involving allegations of misconduct. In one case, he was arrested for transferring the title involving Zambia Army property in Lusaka to the Patriotic Front (PF), which intended to use it as party offices. This offence is alleged to have been committed between April and December 2018, when Justice Muma served as Commissioner of Lands. During this case, Judge Muma caused controversy when he attempted to drown himself in the Zambezi River but was later found alive.
Judge Muma was also suspended from duty in April 2022, pending investigations into allegations of misconduct. The Law Association of Zambia filed a complaint accusing the judge of alleged misconduct in a case involving LAZ and the Attorney General. The complaint accused the judge of disregarding the law and exhibiting bias in the case.
The suspension of Judge Muma has been a controversial issue, with some arguing that it was necessary to ensure accountability and integrity in the judiciary, while others have criticized it as an attack on the independence of the judiciary. The Law Association of Zambia has expressed concern over the suspension, calling for a fair and transparent investigation into the allegations.
Last month the state applied to refer the matter in which Mongu High Court Judge Wilfred Kopa Muma is charged with willful failure to comply with the law and procedure to the High Court, as he is a sitting judge. The state prosecutor argued that Judge Muma is anticipated to continue discharging his functions even when he is appearing in the Subordinate Court, a court he has supervisory jurisdiction over. The state has requested that the matter be committed to the High Court for trial, as it presents a setting that is very novel in the criminal justice system.