Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Our Judiciary needs a revolution - Chongwe

Our Judiciary needs a revolution - Chongwe
By Ernest Chanda
Tue 03 Apr. 2012, 12:59 CAT

Our Judiciary needs a revolution, says Lusaka lawyer Dr Rodger Chongwe. Commenting on Chief Justice Ernest Sakala's statement that it was not clear how judicial reforms should be conducted, Dr Chongwe said the Judiciary had many problems emanating from poor leadership. He said it was important that public confidence in the Judiciary was restored through serious reforms.

"That revolution accompanied by competence, honesty and integrity; that's what we want. We don't want anything which cannot be done. We can have integrity, we can be competent and we can do our work efficiently; that is no problem. So, we are not asking for too much," Dr Chongwe said.

"Unless the Chief Justice was quoted out of context, but I'm made to understand that he knows the manner in which judicial reforms should be conducted. For example isn't it the Chief Justice who has been talking about poor funding to the Judiciary? The major problem that has affected the Judiciary is corruption. There has been a lot of corruption starting from the Supreme Court down to the Local Courts. That is why the public has lost confidence in our Judiciary."

He said he was of the view that the current judges be asked to re-apply for their positions.

Dr Chongwe said the process would be treated as part of the reforms so that there could be efficiency and honesty in the Judiciary.

"And there're in fact some of us who feel that perhaps the first thing we should do is ask our judges to re-apply for their positions. And in the applications we will demand that they give us copies of the judgments that they have written and delivered, for examination by experts if there's need for them to go back to the bench. But any way, that will be a revolutionary way of trying to reform our Judiciary," he said.

"So, at the moment I think that we should convince the Chief Justice and also the judges who work there that there's in fact need for the judges to be trained. There's need for judicial reform because everywhere else that is what is happening. In fact I would have thought that the reforms that we have been talking about would have already started in the first quarter of 2012. But now I realise that in fact nothing has started and everything is stagnant. And the law which is a dynamic institution and legal instrument, we are now told it is resting, that it is on holiday."

Dr Chongwe said if there was openness in the judiciary from the beginning, problems such as corruption would not have advanced.

He said it was unfortunate that even the Chief Justice could not openly admit that there was corruption in the judiciary.

"The Chief Justice himself and some of his colleagues have repeatedly denied the existence of corruption within the judiciary. And yet even when we look at our courts here in Lusaka; at the High Court, in the Supreme Court, in the magistrates court, not all is well. Corruption, inefficiency, delays are rampant; and yet this is the city of the Judiciary in Zambia," said Dr Chongwe.

"And this is where the Chief Justice who is the head of the Judiciary works from. If the Chief Justice of Zambia working from Lusaka does not at least once in a week take time and go round the courts to ensure that his judges are holding court on time, that the magistrates are actually sitting on time and that members of the public are not inconvenienced at least something will be done. But nothing of the sort happens. Now if nothing can happen in Lusaka to make judges, magistrates, local courts work according to schedule, then what about other centres where the chief justice is absent?"

He said the administration of the courts left much to be desired.

Dr Chongwe called for a Judicial Training Institute to train judges in methods of judging cases.

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