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Thursday, 30 June 2011

KK v FTJ v LPM v RB (Revisited)

The recent death of President Chiluba, which has so far be characterised by ridiculous hypocrisy and shallow and dishonesty appraisal of his presidency, provides a good opportunity to share an old piece - KK v FTJ v LPM v RB.

The NAREP Vision

NAREP's Elias Chipimo makes the case for a different vision for Zambia.

A Tragic Tale of Injustice

A recent monthly essay chronicled the poverty of Zambian justice. This news story is yet another tragic tale of the current injustice in the "justice system" : 

One one evening of January 2003, Raphael Nondo was arrested and labeled a dangerous criminal. And for the next seven years the life of the 58-year-old retired soldier was a living hell. He was arrested, detained, tortured and subsequently released after the Director of Public Prosecutions entered a nolle prosequi – seven years later. Nondo relieves the trauma of his ordeal.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Zambia's Iron Lady

I am aware that there is a scheme to remove me and give my position to the preferred losing candidate. Am also aware that there are schemes to frame fake charges against me to pave way for a vacancy so that the preferred candidate takes over. I know about all these schemes meant to destroy and scandalise me in the public eyes.

I have therefore decided to quit to make your work easy by giving you advance notice of my termination of my membership so that I help you reduce unnecessary costs of stage-managed attacks on my integrity in your government-controlled TV and newspapers. Maybe the abuse of public resources and government media can be reduced since I will no longer be a factor. And maybe you can channel the resources to needy social areas instead of paying cadres to insult me. Please advise the President against bringing innocent institutional officers in politics.
You can read the rest of Masebo's powerful resignation letter via The Post. One is hard pressed to remember the last time a Zambian female politician expressed herself so powerfully and eloquently. The days of the chitenge dancing women must surely come to an end. For all their worship of male politicians, Zambian women continue to be victimised and the alleged hatred of Masebo by the President and his friends must surely be seen in that general cultural context. The struggle against victimisation is one women must lead for themselves and with the likes of Masebo in the forefront, there's reason to hope. 

The only technical correction to make is that the government papers and television are not "government controlled", they are MMD controlled.  Government is made up of three branches - Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. The papers and television in question are puppets of the Executive Branch (although our thoughts of poverty of the judiciary are well established).

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Laws are not enough!

Col Panji on tackling corruption:
“I hope our leaders held their heads in shame [when Clinton visited]. That message was for them. That message from Hilary, I am sure, was for them. Corruption is an issue in this country. I want to see the coming government putting in place laws that deter corruption...The sentences we give to those who are corrupt are not too serious. They can serve three years and come back and continue to loot what they stole. We should have, let’s say 20 years in jail without parole.”
The Colonel means well but he is starting from the wrong point. The problem is not that we don't have strong laws, but simply that people are not prosecuted and successfully convicted. A new government would need to solve the "prosecution" problem before it looks to tougher laws. The current approach to sentencing and prosecution of corruption is costly to the tax payer. It is long and by the time cases are done people serve short sentences. For justice to work, it is critical that people are not just punished but are seen to be punished.

We need a new judicial process for convicting corrupt criminals, that is swift and definite (I have previously suggested "special corruption courts" - and PF have hinted at this). No point of having long prison sentences, if you cannot actually convict people efficiently and at minimal cost to the tax payer. In fact I would say that a corruption fight without an efficient court system has little deterrent effect on corruption - and is therefore a pure social cost. While we are sorting out the courts, we should also examine whether the burden of proof in cases involving corruption ought to be reduced.

Welcome competition

The PF Vice President Guy Scott has a new blog. This will hopefully drive all the rude MMD cadres who complain and constantly leave insults to his blog. 

Monday, 13 June 2011

Is our education to blame for having a poor government?

Italian economists Fortunato & Panizza provide new evidence that democratic institutions work well only when the electorate is sufficiently educated. Democratic elections do not help (may even possibly harm) the recruitment of a competent and honest political elite in countries with largely uneducated populations. This seems to make perfect sense. Though information and electoral fair play are important, the voter needs to be able to digest the data and make rational choices. My only quibble is that it would be good to this relationship tested for the type of electoral and political systems. I suspect education may be more important in certain systems. I also wonder whether "education" is simply a proximate for some deeper e.g. local power? In rural areas for example its quite clear the uneducated  largely vote for under performing governments - not necessarily because they are less "rational" or less "informed", but because they have little power - they may be culturally coerced. The implications of these questions are immense (e.g. do some governments deliberately under-educate their people to stay in power?) :

The standard efficiency argument in favour of democracy is based on the idea that free elections are an effective instrument for ousting inept and corrupt politicians (e.g. Sen 2000). This view, however, is based on the assumptions that voters are capable of monitoring and evaluating government actions.

The ability of monitoring elected officials, in turn, depends on the availability of high quality information about the actions of these officials. A recent literature finds that increased media presence improves electoral accountability (Besley and Burgess 2002) and that better rules and practices of disclosure by politicians are associated with lower corruption (Djankov et al. 2010).

At The Mercy of Big Business, 2nd Edition

Bob Sichinga on the "unholy alliance" between the party in government and mining companies :
“My information is as follows; this money is not coming from the capital market. This money has come from the mines, who they have refused to tax. And this is the deal between the government and the mines that they will pay to MMD some money which they can then use for their campaign, with a view of them being retained in government...Because if the mines should not support the MMD and allow a new government to come in, a new government is likely to tax the mines with proper taxes, on mineral royalty taxes as well as windfall tax, as well as income tax....There is also a separate deal which they have done to give money to MMD to enable them campaign. That’s why MMD is flashing this money all over the place. It has come from the mines...Why not make the mines just pay a fair tax? This is betrayal and this is why I have said ‘let the people decide in this election and make the issue of the mine taxes as an issue in this campaign..”
It should be noted in the interest of fairness that Mr Sichinga is currently an economic advisor to the Patriotic Front. But the allegation he makes are well established because President Banda has actually admitted as much in the past - see At The Mercy of Big Business and the implications it raises.  

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Is Zambia Heading for Another Debt Crisis?

Insightful observations from the JCTR. Zambia's "winner takes all" election syndrome is threatening a mounting fiscal and debt crisis as the current administration abandon any shred of prudence and circumvent established spending commitments to spend all to stay in power. The MMD appears keen to sacrifice national finances at the electoral altar.  What is clear is that whoever wins these elections may well inherit large fiscal deficit unless there's renewed goodwill from the donor community to mend the fences. I suppose if there's any  excuse for MMD is that it may be responding to higher spending commitments from the PF, which may have created an "arms race" effect or "race to the bottom" of common sense. In truth, I think it is the credible threat of a likely electoral defeat that is leading to these problems. When are our politicians going to govern for the long term and not the immediate security of their offices? 

While spending K1.3 trillion (approximately 6% of 2011 budget) on road works for Kitwe and Lusaka as was recently announced by the President is a welcome move, the mode of financing these works is of great concern, says JCTR. Since the K3.1 trillion road allocations in the 2011 national budget did not initially include these new road projects but others such as Mongu-Kalabo road, Siavonga – Sinazongwe road etc; government will have to borrow or reallocate resources from other priority arrears to complete these new projects. Even though government is saying these projects will be financed by mining tax arrears and loans, the K555 billion tax arrears and the foreign and domestic loans of 2% and 1.4% of GDP respectively, provided for in the 2011 budget are not sufficient to pay for these mega trillion projects. Government will therefore have to borrow beyond the budgetary ceilings which will certainly exacerbate the Country’s debt burden that lately has been on the increase.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

A Costly Harvest

A half-billion dollar reason fromZAMACE's Brian Tembo on why you may not want to celebrate the bumper harvest just yet :
"The projected K2 trillion, expected to be spent on the close to two million tonnes from small-scale farmers, is above the budgeted K1.23 trillion allocated to the agriculture sector in the national budget.....But can the country sustain this kind of expenditure?...Whichever way you look at it, for the government to continue subsidising production and purchases, the US$400 million deprives the citizens of the much needed services and also goes to subsidise the region as we will store and sell at lower prices for the benefit of the region. There is a problem with this sort of business model. The other key issue is that the majority of the maize is smallholder grown and there are therefore quality concerns discounting our maize price on the international market further......

When it’s time to export, when you factor in the storage and transport and finance charges, we shall effectively sell our maize at a loss. The point is that the country only expects to consume 1.3 million tonnes of this commodity and we have carryover stocks from last season of over 800,000 tonnes and a bumper crop of three million tonnes! So the surplus will therefore be exported...The traditional destination is Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe will not buy maize until their lean season around September. So factor in storage and also note that they will not just look at Zambia but Malawi (cheaper source) and South Africa (much cheaper source). For export add a differential of about $60 to our price....."
We have previously touched on Zambia's broken maize marketing policies. Not sure when this madness will end but good to see Mr Tembo standing up for common sense. 

The Media Is Wasting Your Money

"It is a shame the way the public media is being used by the MMD. The people of Zambia are even made to pay K3,000 per month, for what? That is why people have now shunned watching ZNBC because it is all government propaganda....Zambians have an ownership of the public media because they are taxpayers to these institutions. ZNBC promised that it will accord equal airtime to all political parties but we have not seen that happening. What we see are documentaries of the MMD...We cannot say anything about the private media because we do not know your editorial policies. We do not pay anything to you people...However, the public media is owned by Zambians, they have an ownership. What the public media is doing is wasting your money and my money."
AVAP's Bonnie Tembo on what the public media is doing with your money. The contradiction of MMD's privatisation programme is that it has not sold those things that are genuinely financially bankrupt like Daily Mail - which every Zambian wants them to. More extensive thoughts on the media can be found in our monthly essay - Zambian Media as Agents of Poverty

The Scramble for Africa

A fascinating historical documentary on the "Scramble for Africa" - old & new.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Who will help the Zambians?

Khadija Sharife asks in this striking assessment on the failure of the Zambian people to reap meaningful revenues from copper.  Despite the apparent 'success' of the privatisation of the copper industry, the true picture remains that of a helpless people facing an extraordinary league of corrupt politicians and predatory multinationals, which has seen national assets sold 'for a song' and persistent tax dodging .

During the 1970s, Zambia was one of the world's leading copper producers, extracting over 700,000 tonnes per annum. These days, Zambia leads the ranks as a top copper producer at more than 800,000 tonnes (2010). Much of the success has been credited to the privatisation of the copper industry. It has been almost two decades since Zambia's ailing copper industry, beset by low commodity prices and skyrocketing debt, was privatised. The process was described by the New York Times in 1996 as, 'Westerniz[ing] the economy with a combination of help and arm-twisting from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the lead lenders for the $6.3 billion in external debt the country is carrying.'

Glencore on Fire! (Updated)

The European Investment Bank last week froze all new loans to Glencore and its subsidiaries citing "serious concerns" over the group's corporate governance. The primary reason relates to Mopani Copper Mines, a Zambian subsidiary of Swiss-based Glencore and its many tax evasion problems in Zambia. Mopani continues to be a subject of many allegations by active NGOs - most recently by campaign groups in an open letter signed by a group of European parliamentarians - of tax evasion and of causing widespread pollution.  The pressure on Glencore has been relentless since the leaked pilot audit report commissioned by Zambia Revenue Authority

Zambian Economist received many threats (alongside the usual abuse) regarding this issue to the extent that that we had to withdraw much of the information. It is good to see the EIB taking a serious look at this. Such a shame that European institutions should care more about how companies behave than our own government. Equally shameful than many Zambians seem content at such abuses and it takes the work of foreign NGOs to come to our aid (text corrected below). When are we going to stop being intellectual and economic infants? When will Zambians actually start standing up for themselves? 

More detail on this via Reuters.

Correction (7 June) :

In the note above, I suggested that this was entirely a western led venture. I have been rightly corrected that this is not the case. The Centre for Trade Policy and Development - a Zambian NGO has been heavily involved in pushing pressure alongside EU based NGO. They have been involved  in knowledge building and advocacy activities on matters of matters of tax justice and deserve much credit. You can read about their activities on this issue here.  For further information see the CTPD website http://www.ctpd.org.zm/ . We hope that many Zambians can get on board and start supporting them. 

Monday, 6 June 2011

Getting Better, By Charles Kenny (A Review)

Getting Better, Charles Kenny
A Zambian Economist Review 

Getting Better: Why Global Development Is Succeeding--And How We Can Improve the World Even MoreThe economics of underdevelopment is big business. Books increasingly litter our shelves advising donors and poor governments alike on the best way to address the blight of global poverty. It is usually the case that the more negative and radical the message, the more the book sells. In recent memory we have become accustomed to negative views of the current state of global development, perhaps best exemplified by such pejorative phrases as “bottom billion”, “global south”, “new age primitivity” and, most recently ,“dead aid”. An underlying narrative in many of these books is that current development policies are not working and something more radical is needed. Some extreme voices have even urged aid freezes to break perpetual dependency on foreign aid. Charles Kenny’s Getting Better is a refreshing departure from the current pessimism and offers a more grounded perspective on global development. 

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Debt Watch (China), 3rd Edition

China's Industrial and Commercial Bank (ICBC) recently announced a new loan to Zambia of around $285 million to the poorly run ZESCO. The funds are mean to support a new inter-connector to link Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya allegedly is intended to, wait for it, "boost mineral exploration, agriculture and tourism". The loan will be repaid over 20 years, with a five-year grace period. Construction of the power line will start in November 2011 and will be done by China's TBEA. China always insists on using its companies. More detail via Reuters.

Related Posts :

Debt Watch (China), 2nd Edition
Debt Watch (China)

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The Poverty of Zambia's Justice

By Chola Mukanga


One of the most ignored aspects in Zambia’s search for meaningful development for her people is the role the judiciary continues to play in preventing economic liberation of the poor. The behaviour and conduct of Zambian judges[i] is central in eliminating widespread poverty because it is the same judges that have been at the heart of maintaining the status quo. They have achieved this through direct exploitation of poor citizens through injustice and corruption; and, indirectly shaping the political and economic landscape of the country, always acting in their self interest and always at the expense of our poorest citizens. This monthly essay is a brief exploration of this travesty; and, what must be done to build a justice system that is more pro-poor and stands with the vulnerable.  

A necessary institution

The starting point in understanding the role of judges in national development is the immediate recognition that the judiciary is inherently an “economic institution”. That is to say it provides the basic foundation for economic activities in the country. Judges are to all intents and purposes as “economic” as any government agency, although the scope and depth of their reach is naturally restricted by historic, political and social factors.

A key foundation of any economy is the existence of social order which allows ordinary citizens and other economic actors to conduct their economic affairs unhindered. This social order is maintained through government structures. The existence of an efficient legal system is vital in resolving disputes and protection of societal rights. By dispensing justice through dispute resolution mechanisms, the judicial system can help reduce the prevalence of crime and insecurity which keeps vulnerable groups under dependency and perpetual poverty. Efficient legal rules can also boost entrepreneurial activity among the poor. For, example there’s strong evidence[ii] that the effective protection of property rights plays a pivotal role in enabling an institutional environment conducive to entrepreneurial activity, especially at lower levels of development.

A key aspect of justice is fairness. Judges are necessary for the emergence of a society based on equity and fair play. This is achieved through administration of the law in a manner which answers the fundamental requirements of justice, namely, fair outcomes arrived at by fair procedures. Those in society who are powerful, especially the rich, have other means of getting their way. On the contrary, the poor need the protection from the abuse of power that others are able to exercise over their lives. Their lives can only be safeguarded by a strong judicial system that deters the transgression of individual and corporate rights.

This is particularly important when one considers that a key feature of rule of law is its concept of boundedness. The law is never all-encompassing, rather it allows for significant freedom of action. Citizens can only be constrained or punished for violation of the law and in accordance with the law. Judges are “boundary riders” maintaining the integrity of the fences that divide legal restraint from freedom of action. A minimum requirement of rule of law is that rights and duties of Zambians, and the consequences of breach of any such rights and duties, must be determined objectively. Only when this is the case can Zambians interact with each other freely.

A more direct way in which judges affect the poor is through perpetuation of national plunder. Corruption is top of the national agenda and is rightly regarded as the number one vice that hurts the poor. Corruption leads to financial leakage from the economic system at great cost to the poor who form more than two thirds of the population. It disproportionately affects the poor compared to the rich, leading to larger income inequalities over time. Eliminating corruption is therefore essential to tackling poverty.

A clean judicial system can help deter corrupt practices and at its worst a corrupt judiciary can encourage even greater corruption. At their best judges can act as a check against a corrupt and predatory executive branch by asserting their independence and prosecuting cases without fear or favour. Judges can also reduce or increase the “system effect” of corruption. Corruption in institutions which are tasked with combating corruption is likely to encourage corruption in other areas, since the possibility of detection and punishment is reduced. Any fight against corruption must therefore begin with eradicating corruption in the judiciary. 

Criminal activity in the judiciary sends the wrong signal to the rest of society. In line with the “broken windows theory”, dishonest judges can induce honest Zambians to try to become even more corrupt. This may start a downward spiral of ever-increasing lawlessness. This is the case even when in actuality only about 5 percent of judges may actually be corrupt. If, on the other hand, the judiciary projected an image that most of them are honest, Zambians may become more confident that they live in a law abiding society. This environment provides them with the motivation to follow others and to play according to the legal rules. A positive vicious cycle could develop leading to less and less corruption.

These issues become ever more important, when it recognised that judges develop and implement policy independent of other branches, and do so in a non-democratic way. Under Zambia’s common law legal system, judges have the ability to set precedent thereby defining more strongly how Zambians should behave and conduct their affairs in the future. Judges can even overturn existing laws passed by legislature by declaring them unconstitutional or offering wide-ranging or restricted applications. The power of precedent makes this a much stronger threat as it becomes costly for other judges in the future to overturn previous judgements, even when such previous judgements were passed by corrupt colleagues.

It also goes without saying, that judges cost money. As a national institution the judiciary is publicly funded and therefore a direct drain on national resources against other competing priorities. The poor therefore find themselves not only at the mercy of undemocratic and often corrupt judges, but also competing against these judges for the national cake. It is the serious financial implications of the situation that we must always keep under serious review the performance of the judiciary.

The treason of judges 
The performance of the judiciary in Zambia over the last two decades has been systematically and deliberately anti-poor.  Zambian judges preside over an unequal system of justice that panders to the whims of the ruling party of the day at the expense of the poor and silent majority.

A key manifestation of this inequality is the continuous judicial defence of poor laws and unjust practices. A recent court case involving a man who allegedly insulted the sitting president is case in point. Though the law clearly demanded some form of judicial process, it was clear that the man had no adequate legal representation and therefore could not possibly be tried fairly. The failure of the state to provide what is due to the man (legal aid) in effect undermined the administration of justice. Rather than the presiding judge noting the travesty of the judicial process and abandoning the case, he went on to sentence the man to prison. This is jungle justice.  Zambian judges are maintaining an adversarial system of justice that is heavily in favour of those in government and their rich friends.

This is worrying because as employees, many Zambians confront the largest single employer in the country – the government. Similarly, a significant proportion of injured persons seek compensation from government agencies such as hospitals, police and road authorities. Government manifests its full range of commercial interests as supplier or purchaser of goods and services from ordinary people, which are as much prone to disputes over property rights or contractual terms as any other commercial relationship. If judges are captured by the government, as the evidence suggests, it makes the quest of justice meaningless. Where will the poor run to for justice?

The treason of judges is exemplified in the perpetuation of a delayed form of justice against the poor. There many cases involving poor citizens which takes eons to get heard. It is typical for a person to stay in prison over two years without having a day in the court. Judges have allowed the state to ration justice and keep people in limbo. It is too simplistic to simply say cases are delayed because there’s insufficient supply of judges. This becomes obvious when we consider that the rich usually have their cases appealed quickly and are able to exhaust the system. The reason many poor people struggle to get their cases heard or appealed is probably the same reason they are incarcerated - they are poor people suffering from failed government policies. They have no access to the levers of power and the money that ensures they get proper legal representation. Judges are their only hope. Unfortunately, many of our corrupt judges are not willing or nor able to listen.

Stories of people languishing in prison awaiting trials abound. A certain tailor was incarcerated at Lusaka Central Prison for accepting money from a woman who wanted him to make her a chitenge outfit, but failed to return K70,000. The aggrieved woman told the police and suspect was arrested with no prospect of trial. Just another common story. Equally common is that cases involving the rich are decidedly speedily. Sometime cases such as challenging the authority of the Chief Justice can be decided within days. Among our poor however it can take months from the time of arrest to when the accused appears before any judicial officer.  Reverend Matele (CCZ) echoed this point when she said, "it has been noticed that the rich, the powerful and famous appear to be above the law and go scot-free while the poor languish in prison”. 

The delay in the execution of justice has led to prisons bursting at the seams with humanity. Penitentiaries built by imperial Britain to hold a few hundred are now overcrowded with thousands.  Lusaka Central Prison, built in the late 1950s for about 300 inmates, is crammed with about 1,800 inmates, many of them untried in a court of law. One remandee recently noted, “we are so overcrowded that when we sleep we cannot turn over freely. We all have to agree that we are turning to the right, and that is when we can do it simultaneously”. The reason for this shameful state of affairs is that the wheels of justice turn slowly. 35% of the national prison population is made up of inmates who judges have stalled their cases due to inefficiency and poor case management. Nearly all those on remand are the poorest of the poorest in our society. Is this what we call justice?

These problems can be averted if the judiciary was able to assert its independence and demand better justice. In practice, the opposite has happened with judges encouraging the erosion of independence. Recently judges supported legislation which has given the President arbitrary powers to alter the number of judges in the Supreme Court and High Court benches, even when such proposals were opposed by all well meaning Zambians. These changes seriously undermine the independence of our judiciary and turned it into a personal toy of the sitting president.

It is no surprise therefore that judges continue ever willing to perform job functions outside their expertise as they seek greater political influence. The absence of specific policies on the use of judges has given some judges the necessary cover to accept political jobs outside regular duties, which has not only depleted the number of judges but also compromised the independence of the judiciary. It is now customary to see a judge sitting as head of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) and also presiding as a Supreme Court Judge.  When one considers that the Chief Justice is the returning officer, it becomes clear that the entire electoral process is tainted from the beginning.

Corruptions galore

A major reason the judiciary suffers from inertia is corruption, especially in form of nepotism[iii]. Under the current administration there have been deliberate attempts to fill the judiciary with well-placed relatives and friends. In one of the most celebrated exchanges at the Supreme Court in 2010, Mr Chilekwa was sentenced to prison for contempt of court. His “crime” was claiming that the Supreme Court was run from a single village, a point he was keen to share with the bench. Speaking before Justice Mambilima and Justice Mwanawambwa, Mr Chilekwa observed, “I am reliably informed that......there was a clique from one village that was hard to permeate. The people who come from one village are Chief Justice Ernest Sakala, Prof Mvunga, the President Rupiah Banda and the Deputy Chief Justice Ireen Mambilima. All those outside that circle cannot be heard.” The forum was unfortunate but his statement is not too far from reality. Perhaps if he had stopped there, they would have let him go, but Mr Chilekwa, clearly upset at how the court had dealt with him went on to report that his lawyer had advised that it was pointless to have confidence in the courts because it was full of “stupid judgements, by stupid judges”. Ironically, the court sentence he was given neatly proved his point because he was sent to prison when clearly what he needed was proper legal representation and lessons in how courts operate.

Few would dispute the judiciary is nepotistic, even fewer would dismiss that it is characterised by rampant theft and mismanagement of state resources. Not too long ago, it was reported that significant sums of money was missing at Chipata High Court. A separate report by Auditor General catalogued gross financial mismanagement and abuse at the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). There were cases of failure to prepare financial statements; procurement misdeeds; and blatant abuse of public funds. The cumulative financial misapplication was a staggering K6.1bn in 2008 alone. No public cries in the media because wronging the judiciary in a country where the government can arrest you for bouncing cheques or insulting the president is not wise. So people have learnt to quietly mind their own business. In the meantime judges continue oppressing the poor and stealing from national coffers.

In rural areas, wide financial abuse is only rivalled by open bribery. Chief Chisunka[iv] has previously bemoaned how bribery of local courts is damaging the quest for justice in Luapula: “they [court clerks] are in the habit of ‘eating’ clients’ money. When one brings money to court after being charged, the officers get it. When an inquiry is made, they run away. The provincial local courts office was recovering money through a salary from one of the clerks... They have run away from the centres due to debts from the clients. Others have run away with millions of kwacha. It’s like they were born from one parent....Its too much...”

The situation in our judicial system can only be described as perilous. It has never been more urgent to undertake major surgery. But, where do we begin?

A challenging but necessary journey

The pursuit of reform must start with the inevitable conclusion that all is not well with our judicial system. It is in much need of reform. The key is to change the incentives for good performance from the judiciary.  This would require that we put in place reforms that achieve two things: reward good decision making within the judiciary; and, ensure that reforms allow citizens to kick out poor performing judges. There five simple and inexpensive ideas we can start with.

First, review of pay and tenure structures. There would need to be a serious review of the pay structures of judges, accompanied by clear service agreements between judiciary and the Zambian people. How such structures are designed would be critical, but what is clear is that judicial independence is heavily shaped by tenure security of judges and other officers. For example, the causes of the removal of a judge from office must be investigated thoroughly and made known while the ultimate determination of the case should be made constitutionally.

Secondly, undertake significant constitutional reform. Judges must be strictly subject to the constitution and law and should not be subject to the control or direction of any person or authority. Associated measures must be put in the constitution to establish and protect judicial independence. Such measures should include the financial independence of the judiciary by making it a self-accounting institution which will prepare its own budget and deal directly with the responsible Finance minister. Similarly, the JSC should be revamped to ensure that it reviews and submit recommendations for the pay and other conditions of service of judges to a separate independent commission overseen by Parliament. 

Thirdly, reform the vetting process. There’s need to for new measures and procedures for appointment of judicial officers, including acting appointments. Particularly crucial is the reform of the ratification process for the appointment of the Chief Justice and the Deputy Chief Justice as well as other judges of the High and Supreme courts.

Fourthly, improvement in competition. A key problem with the judiciary is that top judges are not recruited based on open competition. They are presidential appointees and therefore only too eager to plead for their master at every turn in case they lose their jobs. This needs to change to allow fresh blood to be injected in an old and corrupt clique.

Finally, development of new measures aimed at tackling corruption. It is vital that ways are found to check corrupt activities, especially given the fiscal constraints of the republic. Regularly subjecting the institution for external and independent audits and firing corrupt judges is vital in projecting a lawful society and cutting waste.

Chola Mukanga is the founder of Zambian Economist which provides independent and non-partisan perspectives on Zambia's progress towards meaningful development for her people.

Copyright: Zambian Economist, 2011




[i] We use the term “judges” to broadly include magistrates and other judicial officers at the lower level
[iii]For a full discussion of the forms of corruption, see “Understanding Corruption in Zambia” http://www.zambian-economist.com/2011/04/understanding-corruption-in-zambia.html