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Friday, 8 November 2013

Free Riding Justice

William Harrington (Former Transport Minister) is asking for financial assistance to ensure justice is done. Mr Harrington intends to move a motion in the High Court to probe Tourism Minister Sylvia Masebo over allegations of abuse of authority regarding the operations at ZAWA. This follows a recent High Court ruling that Mr Harrington has the right to a judicial review against Masebo. Contrary to the position taken by Acting Chief Justice Lombe Chibesakunda who continues to refuse to appoint a Tribunal to probe Masebo.

Unfortunately the High Court did not award him costs for his action against Justice Chibesakunda because “the matter had been moved in public interest". This means Harrignton has to continue carrying the financial cost alone even though his actions benefits the public in general. He is now considering giving up the fight due to lack of financial resources. Unless other stakeholders who wish to see justice in the matter come on board, the judgment granted in his favour would remain on paper.

Harrington’s situation unfortunately illustrates the problem of justice in Zambia. In any other society suing government or bringing ministers to account is fairly standard due to the transparency of government. Unfortunately in Zambia even if a senior government official makes a "wrong decision" or engages in corruption whilst in office very few people would sue them. Part of the reason is that people do not trust our judicial system. Many Zambians do not believe that senior officials and politicians can really be found at fault by our judicial system, especially when you have the likes of Chibesakunda in control of the judiciary.

The other reason is that of the "free rider" problem. In many instances, save for the likes of Harrington, people would prefer to sit on their hands and wait for someone else to bear the cost (and I don't just mean financial) of taking Government to task. We see this in many areas. We always want others to do it for us. We want others to hold government to account on our behalf and we rarely support them financially. We are all like this.

So the only solution in this instance I believe is to ensure that some mechanisms are put in place that helps avoid having to rely on individuals to enforce good behaviour through the courts. We really must fight for the independence of the judiciary, DPP, police and oversight institutions, including ensuring that the Attorney General's advice is compulsory and adhered to in all government business. Unfortunately such fights also needs money! We need Harringtons in every section of society! And they need our support so that in the future we don't rely on them!

So it is my hope that people will come on board and help Mr Harrington pursue justice. Whether you are PF or not, we should all support those that want light to shine in dark places. And if that light does shine and finds Ms Masebo innocent, we shall all rejoice with her! And let us support the Harringtons of this world wherever they may be found - whether it is politics, business, justice or media! Independent voices who refuse to be captured by corrupt people and institutions. They need our help to make a better Zambia!

Chola Mukanga | Economist
Copyright © Zambian Economist 2013

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