Saturday, May 10, 2008

We can't be neutral on corruption - Sakala

We can't be neutral on corruption - Sakala
By Laura Mushaukwa
Saturday May 10, 2008 [04:00]

CHIEF Justice Ernest Sakala has said corruption exists in the Judiciary and the country at large. Officiating at a magistrates’ workshop organised by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) at Cresta Golf View Hotel yesterday, justice Sakala disclosed that every sitting of the Judicial Service Commission dealt with no less than five to ten disciplinary cases involving Judiciary staff in corruption-related matters.

"The importance of these workshops/seminars on corruption cannot be belittled. For me, it would be naïve on my part to deny that there is no corruption in the country and in the Judiciary itself," justice Sakala said. "What these workshops intend to achieve therefore, and I hope and believe they will achieve, is to bring to the fore what corruption is, what form it may take.

“These workshops are intended to sharpen our understanding of corruption particularly that the offence has now become complex and is committed by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated methods.”
Justice Sakala said corruption was one of the biggest deterrents to growth and poverty reduction in Zambia.

“Fighting corruption demands a clear understanding and appreciation of its effects on the society as a whole. As a judiciary, we cannot afford to take a neutral stand. We must be part of the cure of fighting corruption,” justice Sakala said.

He highlighted the negative impact that corruption has on a country.
“We all know what corruption can do to the country and we know what it has done in some countries. It not only distorts the economy by making businesses expensive, makes life expensive and perpetuates poverty in society,” justice Sakala said.

“In relation to our institution, corruption does a lot of injustice and scratches the very mirror of which we are in society.”

Justice Sakala advised magistrates against taking bribes saying bribes blind the eye of the wise, thereby subverting the cause of the righteous.

He said corruption in the judiciary could take the form of fraud, deliberate misplacement of court records, altering of records and deciding matters based on influence and not evidence.

He revealed that corruption in the judiciary could also take the form of improper socialisation with the parties to the case.

“Delay may make you to unwittingly come into social contact with litigants and undue influence may be exerted,” said justice Sakala. “We are all too familiar with the phrase justice delayed is justice denied.”

Justice Sakala said the foundation of corruption was human greed and the desire to accumulate wealth dishonestly.

He said human greed was the foundation as the insatiable need for wealth became so strong that it defeated the strongly held ethical principles.

“Talking of accumulation of wealth, we all know our salaries but is what we own commensurate with our salaries? We have heard of junior staff owning huge mansions in some townships, yet they obtained no loan,” Justice Sakala said.

He stressed the need for people to be content with what they had, saying they would be more blessed that way.

“As magistrates, you should strictly adhere to the Judicial Code of Conduct, eliminate that human greed of accumulating dishonest wealth. You cannot say one thing in open court and then later alter the record to fit the circumstances of bribery,” justice Sakala advised.

He said the lack of a conducive working environment and poor conditions of service should not be used as a defence for corruption.

“I appreciate that we do not have the best conditions of service or the best conducive working environment but lack or absence of these facilities will not be a defence to corruption,” said justice Sakala.

“With our limited budget, we have nevertheless tried to improve in certain areas. For instance, we have purchased or are purchasing a vehicle for each principal resident magistrates’ court for circulating in each province and for ensuring adequate revenue collection.”

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