James Thornton (British High Commissioner) helpfully touches on a subject that I have repeatedly mentioned to my Africans friends. It is the matter of those foolish looking robes and wigs worn by Judges and parliamentary officials :
"A non-British colleague expressed surprise that the Supreme Court justices, the Speaker and the Parliamentary clerks still wore wigs and robes. It is true that these date from eighteenth-century British practice….There is no point in continuing with traditions that no longer seem comfortable or which are no longer useful. But these costumes are effectively a badge of office. If they reinforce the sense of the individuals that they are doing important work in accordance with the traditions of the offices concerned, they are well worth keeping."(Source : The Post)
I would add that this issue is not just a matter of style or comfort. These strange and funny looking robes and wigs (they look so foolish on a Zambian!) probably does more harm than good culturally. Although the attire exists for historical reasons, continuously wearing them actually reinforces a colonial mentality among Africans. More worryingly, such attire also projects to many rural dwellers in our villages that Government is alien to them. A sort of foreign concoction forced on them. If we want courts and parliaments to connect with people we should ensure that the images that emanate from their also connect with people. Looking like an 18th century Tory or Whig politician is not the way to connect with a 21st century Zambian villager.
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Chola Mukanga | Economist
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