Monday, August 17, 2009

Justice by executive order – The Era of Bwezani Banda

It took me five minutes from when Mr [William] Harrington asked for the tribunal to be set up and the judge-in-charge of that phoned me in my office here to say that we have had a citizen who has come to request for a tribunal to be set up in order to answer certain questions regarding Dora Siliya. It took me less than five minutes to say please go ahead.....” (President Rupiah Banda press conference – 24th June 2009 Transcript of Q & A Session -The Post).

By his own admission Rupiah Bwezani Banda exposed how he can fix or influence any case brought under the Zambian judicial process. Whether by design or fate, his chilling admission in that ill-fated press conference during which a monkey peed on his presidency, he on his part exposed how an overbearing executive can pee on the Judiciary.
The justices it appears cannot do anything without consulting the almighty Bwezani for approval or are they been made to check with the almighty before adjudicating important cases.

If that is the case, it is no wonder that Ndola High Court registrar Jones Chinyama had to postpone his verdict in the Frederick Chiluba case last Friday, only to come back today with rumblings that consumed more than six (6) hours yet ended with a bizarre acquittal of Chiluba. He obviously spent the whole weekend consulting President Rupiah Banda.
And for all the support Chiluba has given Rupiah Banda, in the elections and on key decisions like the sale of Zamtel, Bwezani could not allow Magistrate Jones Chinyama to send Chiluba to jail.
Despite the overwhelming evidence presented, which in some bizarre fashion was sufficient to convict his principal accomplices Faustin Kabwe and Aaron Chungu to 3 years of hard labor prison sentences, Chiluba came off without the slightest pretense of a reprimand. Chiluba was the President in charge when Kabwe and Chungu were stealing; further the evidence for all intents and purposes points to the duo carrying water on Chiluba’s behalf.
Doesn’t he bear some responsibility, if not all? Does the buck not stop at plot one?

None of that matters in the era of Bwezani, just like we’ve heard of the return of smelly hospitals, strikes, university closures, and patients on hunger strike, wait that’s a first.
Even under the latter horror of UNIP era, patients could at least find refuge in hospitals, what kind of hostilities are now forcing patients in Zambia, to go on  hunger strike?

As I have bloviated before, the executive wing of the Zambian government needs some of it’s power clipped off, the Zambian people through several constitution reviews including the on going NCC, have consistently demanded a reduction of the current excessive power and the untoward influence being exerted the President in most aspects of their daily lives.
The executive under the current system is sucking all the oxygen in the room; he decides how much to pay nurses and doctors. He determines the student allowance and when university students should get it; he decides how and to whom companies like Zamtel should be sold to and he can possibly even  sway the outcome of any election in Zambia.

You may wonder really?
How is that possible?

Well, it took five minutes for Rupiah Banda to weigh on a private citizen’s petition to setup a tribunal to investigate Dora Siliya.
The chief justice under section 13 (3) of the Parliamentary and Ministerial code of conduct act, chapter 16 of the Laws of Zambia is duly authorized to constitute a tribunal if the petitioner or complainant presents prima facie evidence for all the essential facts of the case. Yet in less than five minutes the chief justice had exhausted all his legal authority and independence, the almighty Rupiah Banda had to know about this case, he had to approve whether the case proceeds or not.
Proof that it is not the weight of evidence that determines the outcome of significant legal cases in Zambia; it is the executive that calls the shorts.
It therefore follows, that Magistrate Jones Chinyama had to buy himself more time before passing judgment on Chiluba, a whole weekend to consult the almighty Rupiah Bwezani Banda. He then had, come up with 6 hours long blah…blah, that let loose without so much as a slap on wrist, one of Zambia’s most unscrupulous plunderer simply because the current plunderer in chief did not want a precedent set.