The Chief Justice has slapped an additional charge on suspended Livingstone Magistrate Benjamin Mwelwa for allegedly soliciting help from a political party.
And Patriots for Economic Progress president Sean Tembo has accused Chief Justice Irene Mambilima of using her office to settle personal scores against magistrate Mwelwa.
On September 11, 2017, Tembo wrote to Chief Justice Mambilima arguing that magistrate Mwelwa’s suspension was contrary to judicial independence.
But in response, justice Mambilima told Tembo that the Judiciary had the right to suspend erring magistrates to pave way for investigations.
However, in a response dated September 22, 2017 Tembo insisted that magistrate Mwelwa’s suspension was illegal because there was no law which empowered the Chief Registrar to suspend a magistrate.
In a letter dated December 26, 2017, Deputy Chief Justice Marvin Mwanamwamba stated that an additional charge had been slapped on magistrate Mwelwa due to Tembo’s meddling.
“As a result of your intervention and repeated letters to the Judiciary over the matter, it has been decided to place magistrate Mwelwa on an additional charge of soliciting/seeking support from a political party. I wish to advise that under the Republican Constitution, the Judiciary has adjudicative and administrative independence. I refer to article 122 of the Constitution, ‘122 (3) The Judiciary shall not, in the performance of its administrative functions and management of its financial affairs, be subject to the control or direction of a person or an authority. (4) A person and a person holding a public office shall protect the independence, dignity and effectiveness of the Judiciary’,” justice Mwanamwambwa stated.
He also alleged that magistrate Mwelwa had sought help from another political party which refused to assist him.
“Your intervention in the suspension of magistrate Mwelwa and demand that he be reinstated amounts to a breach of Article 122 (3) and (4) of the Constitution. We have information that magistrate Mwelwa also sought support of another political party. But that other party refused to support him,” justice Mwanamwambwa stated.
He also disagreed with Tembo’s argument that the Chief Registrar had no power to suspend a magistrate.
“Your argument is misconceived. The Chief Registrar is the supervising officer of all magistrates in Zambia, he had authority to suspend any magistrate who is accused of misconduct and have such a magistrate put on disciplinary charge,” stated justice Mwanamwambwa.
“This is our last letter to you over this matter. We shall not reply to any further correspondence from you.”
Despite an assurance of getting no further responses, Tembo has written another letter to justice Mambilima dated January 9, 2018 stating that it was insulting to label PeP a hired gun.
“Please note that the matter of this illegal suspension of the magistrate was only brought to our attention by a reputable civil society organisation and after due consideration of the injustice that was evident, we decided to pursue it, and we shall continue to pursue it. We therefore wish to reject your insinuations that PeP is a hired gun, with utmost contempt. We consider your unfounded insinuations to be disrespectful and an insult to our good standing as an opposition political party in Zambia,” Tembo stated.
“In the second last paragraph of your letter…the Deputy Chief Justice says ‘…we have information that magistrate Mwelwa sought support of another political party…’ Our question is; since when did the Judiciary become an investigative wing? By your own admission, it is evident that you have now usurped the powers of our investigative wings in total violation of our Republican Constitution.”
Tembo also wondered why justice Mambwilima had failed to cite constitutional provisions which gave powers to the Chief Registrar to suspend a magistrate.
And Tembo accused justice Mambilima of abusing her office.
“Madam Chief Justice, we wish to put it to you that as PeP, we have carried out our own investigations of this matter and we have determined that your continued persecution of Honorable Magistrate Benjamin Mwelwa is most likely based on a personal vendetta that you have against him. This personal vendetta against Magistrate Benjamin Mwelwa arises from a 2015 matter involving the People Vs Rueben Chikumba in which your niece who at the time worked as an in-house Legal Counsel for ZAWA, was called for contempt of court and locked up in jail for the weekend by a Livingstone Surbordinate Court which was presided on by Honorable Magistrate Benjamin Mwelwa, and she us said to have vowed to revenge against the Honorable Magistrate by all means, for locking her up,” stated Tembo.
“Madam Chief Justice, we the Patriots for Economic Progress wish to inform you that we shall not allow you to continue to use your position as Chief Justice of this Republic to settle personal scores on behalf of your niece against an honourable man who was just doing his job…we can not be intimidated by your threats that we are violating the Republican Constitution by unearthing your illegal activities in this matter. If we can provide checks and balances to your appointing authority, the Republican President, what would stop us from providing checks and balances to you, a mere appointee of the President?”
Acting Chief Registrar Charles Kafunda suspended magistrate Mwelwa on August 9, 2017 for refusing to give effect to a nolle prosequi in a case of The People v Milford Maambo, Ziwa Malilo and Chanda Chabala.