By Bennie Mundando
THE Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) says it is deeply concerned with the attacks on the Judiciary attributed to Paul Moonga who is the Patriotic Front (PF) Lusaka Province chairperson.
During a press briefing at the PF Secretariat on Friday, March 5, 2021. Mr. Moonga claimed that the opposition was trying to bribe Judges to disqualify President Edgar Lungu from standing in the August election.
He said the PF was aware that by October last year, the opposition constituted a team of lawyers to be on standby, waiting to petition President Lungu’s eligibility once he files his nomination.
PF deputy Secretary General, Mumbi Phiri, distanced the ruling party from Mr. Moonga’s claims saying the party respected the rule of law and the independence of the Judiciary.
But Mr. Moonga has maintained his position over the matter as quoted by some tabloids today and has told off Ms. Phiri, asking her to remain in her lane as she is not his boss.
However, in a statement made available to The Scoop today, LAZ honorary secretary Sokwani Peter Chilembo expressed grouses over sentiments by Mr. Moonga which were intended to bring the Judiciary into disrepute.
Mr. Chilembo said the Judiciary, being a creation of the Constitution, was established under Part VIII of the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) No. 2 of 2016. Article 122 (1) provides that, in the exercise of the judicial authority, the Judiciary shall be subject only to this Constitution and the law and not be subject to the control or direction of a person or an authority.
He said while LAZ subscribed to the freedom of expression and principles of accountability which entail that any person and institution, including the Judiciary could be subject of criticism, it was particularly perturbed by the sentiments from a senior member of the ruling party as the sentiments suggested that the Judiciary was subject to the control and direction of other people, contrary to the constitutional provision.
“In particular, the sentiments that the Judges are being watched by the ruling party, and the suggestion that some Constitutional Court Judges are susceptible to corruption so as to nullify the candidature of the President should a petition be filed, are not only unfortunate and detrimental to constitutionalism, but also have the potential to intimidate the Judiciary and undermine its independence.
“LAZ, is duty bound to promote the Rule of Law under section 4 of the Law Association of Zambia Act, Chapter 31 of the Laws of Zambia. It is in furtherance of that mandate that LAZ strongly condemns unwarranted attacks on public institutions which are established to work independently, in furtherance of national order and governance,” Mr. Chilembo said.
He said if such public utterances were left unchecked or requisite reprimand not effected, the country may face a quagmire where institutions risked being cowed into taking extraneous considerations in the discharge of their statutory mandates.
“We therefore, call upon the PF leadership to prevail over its members to refrain from issuing unwarranted attacks against the Judiciary or indeed any other public institutions as these institutions should not be politicised in the name of serving personal interests.
“LAZ will engage the ruling party to register its disquiet. We also urge the Judiciary to continue discharging its mandate without fear or favour in tandem with its constitutional mandate,” he said.