WE are shocked by the very wrong and misguided claim by the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) that it would be illegal to advertise the vacant position of Chief Justice.
There is no law that proscribes a procedure that introduces transparency and probity in the recruitment of high judicial office.
This misguided interpretation actually betrays the feckless character of this association which has never been proactive.
We note that LAZ has in the past failed to live up to the expectations of the public by remaining quiet on matters that warrant its intervention and only reacting nonchalantly long after events.
Zambians have not forgotten how LAZ kept quiet when the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land abrogated basic natural law by refusing to accord second Republican President Frederick Chiluba an opportunity to be heard before his immunity was removed.
The same LAZ remained mute when the Government of President Levy Mwanawasa instituted the infamous, illegal and abnoxious Task Force on Corruption, whose cases are still pending in courts of law.
This is the more reason that we are not surprised by the stance LAZ has adopted. The association has objected to a progressive idea, promoting meritocracy which President Hakainde Hichilema himself has advocated preferring the opaque system that has existed from the time of independence.
There is absolutely nothing under the law that stops the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) from advertising the vacant position of Chief Justice and inviting applications from interested candidates, nothing.
It is not even fair for LAZ to implicate the President because the letter by John Sangwa did not suggest in any manner or form that the President should advertise the position.
“According to Article 216 of the Constitution, all Service Commissions, including the JSC, shall be subject only to the Constitution and be independent and not be subject to the control of a person or an authority in the performance of its functions,” he said.
We agree with the observation by one of the country’s renowned lawyers, Mr Sakwiba Sikota who said he saw nothing wrong with the JSC advertising the position of Chief Justice because it would not be a breach of the constitution.
Mr Sangwa said the appointment of the next Chief Justice must not be based on partisan, ethnic, regional or even personal lines but by the ideal that merit hard work and a clean track record.
We feel LAZ should not stick to archaic practices which deny people justice.
In some countries for example – Kenya and South Africa – judges go through a rigorous selection process before they are appointment.
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has just broken with the rigid practice by involving the public in the selection of the country’s next Chief Jutice.
This approach was met with cynicism by some, while others commended the unprecedented move.
The President said at the the time that the invitation for public participation was meant to promote transparency.
Come on LAZ, move with the times.