LAZ in the dock

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 10:08:07 +0000


IT IS indeed shocking that the Law Association of Zambia failed to condemn Hakainde Hichilema for undressing the Judiciary in public over his self-inflicted troubles in the Constitutional Court, describing Zambian judges as ‘‘thugs and criminals not worth the gowns they were wearing’’.

Even more astounding is LAZ’s swift and strong response yesterday to remarks by Presidential spokesperson Amos Chanda that recent judicial decisions to nullify the seats of two senior Cabinet ministers had caused ‘‘discomfort’’ in the ruling party, advising judges not to make political decisions which could open them to public scrutiny.

We understand the reaction of the Patriotic Front who have condemned LAZ’s partisan stance over the issue, drawing a parallel between the highly uncivil and insulting language of the UPND leader and the more sober and restrained complaint by State House.

We find it absurd that each time our distinguished men and women in Zambia’s foremost law institution open their mouths, Zambians shudder. Instead of being a respected organisation of luminaries steeped in the tradition of legal propriety and impartiality, LAZ has come to be a laughing stock and a shameless advocate of what the crude Zambian opposition stands for.

The anger and rudeness exhibited by Mr Hichilema when UPND lost the presidential petition in the Constitutional Court over the 14-day clause, left many right-thinking Zambians wondering how a man aspiring to lead this country as head of the executive arm of government can publicly undress the women and men of that august institution, never mind how bitter he must have felt.

How possible that the Law Association of Zambia missed the significance of Mr Hichilema’s public ridicule against the learned justices of Zambia’s newly established ‘‘people’s court’’?

If it were in our neighbouring countries where the equivalents of LAZ are untainted and focused, they would have savaged the opposition leader and dragged him screaming before the Constitutional Court for contempt.

Compared to what Mr Hichilema said, the statement by the Presidential spokesperson on Sunday was a slap on the wrist of some judges. Yes, coming from the Presidency it raised some brows, but our democracy demands that even the ruling party can comment on decisions of sensitive institutions it feels are going too far.

Mr Chanda maybe a civil servant but he is the spokesperson for the Head of State – a politician and president of the ruling party. What is wrong with the President directing his Press aide to speak for him when he is out of the country on a sensitive ‘‘political’’ issue such as the perceived political decisions being meted out by some judges of the High Court of Zambia?

As far as we are concerned Mr Chanda’s bold and diplomatic foray into the realms of party politics helped ignite a healthy political debate that enhances and gives quality to our democratic dispensation. Sometimes it requires a no-holds-barred approach to correct what could, if allowed to continue, threaten the integrity and independence of a critical arm of governance such as the Judiciary.

It is unfortunate that the black robbed and white wigged members of the exclusive club known as LAZ did not learn anything from the wise counsel coming out of State House. They even forgot that they have one of their own in Plot One and those comments must have been carefully chosen and researched to guide lawyers on both sides of the argument.

The truth of the matter is that many Zambians are saddened by the attitude and partisanship of LAZ, an organisation mandated to lead the nation each time there was a controversial issue requiring well-reasoned and impartial legal guidance.

The current leadership of LAZ must do something to rid itself of the perceived tag of the so-called cartel. No wonder some of their members feel suffocated and want to form a splinter lawyers association.

We respect and admire the men and women running LAZ but we challenge them to prove their relevance and value to their profession and organisation before we ask them to hand over to others. Zambia is never short of lawyers of integrity and patriotism.

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