CONSTITUTIONAL Lawyer John Sangwa State Counsel says Constitutional Court judges and President Edgar Lungu acted corruptly by offering and accepting job offers for positions they do not qualify.
In an interview, Sangwa expressed concern that the Constitution Court itself was incompetent to interpret the Constitution because all the judges remain unqualified to hold their positions.
Sangwa argued that President Lungu already negotiated his eligibility to stand in 2021 when he appointed an unqualified bench of judges to the ConCourt.
“Lungu was smart, he dribbled the Zambians. He dribbled us, and this is what I was saying, the ConCourt is a rubber stamp. How did Lungu achieve that? By appointing people that are not qualified, he put them there, simple! It’s like in any other position, you get someone who is not qualified and you put them there, do you think that person will make any ruling against you? They will never because they know that they are not qualified and if they make noise, they may be fired. And for a person who has no experience to accept to do a job which he doesn’t know, it means that they are very desperate,” Sangwa argued.
“So this is why I am saying Lungu dribbled us. Those guys [at the Constitutional Court] are literary in his pocket. They will never rule against him. Our only hope is when Lungu files his nomination within few months before the elections. At that point maybe the judges may be less scared of being impartial.
He charged that appointing people who did not qualify to serve as ConCourt judges was tantamount to corruption, just like it was corruption for those people to accept positions they knew they did not qualify for.
“When you don’t qualify for a position and you accept it, that’s corruption already. You put me in a position that I don’t have qualifications for, you have bribed me. Do you think I can be able to stand up against you? Because you know that you have done me a favour and I know it, I know that I don’t qualify but I have still accepted. So what it means is that both Lungu and judges of the Constitutional Court both broke the law and that is corruption because when you take up a position you have not qualified for, the person appointing you has bribed you and you the person accepting the appointment, you are accepting a bribe,” Sangwa said.
“If you have never done Constitutional law in your life then you are not qualified, so when you take up a position in the Constitutional Court, that’s a bribe! You must have served for 15 years at the bar to be able to qualify. You must have been a legal practitioner and you must have done some work in the area of Constitutional law. You need expertise, it’s not just every lawyer that can work as Constitutional Court judge, no! They require experience there because it’s a special court. But none of [ the current judges at the ConCourt] has the qualifications, none of them qualify and none of them has ever rebutted that. I have never received a rebuttal telling me to say I am lying and that they are qualified, nobody has ever challenged me on that.”
Sangwa emphasised that graduating from law school does not qualify a lawyer to be a judge.
“You know what used to happen? A guy would get admitted today, becomes a lawyer and what happens? He goes and runs a supermarket for 15 years and then he comes back and says ‘because I have clocked 15 years as a lawyer, now I am entitled to become a judge’, but what have you done in between? You were running a supermarket, but what has that experience of running a supermarket got to do with sitting on the bench? Nothing! But this used to happen. That’s when they changed the law to say you must have been a legal practitioner for 15 years. You must have practiced, go to America, go to UK, they take lawyers that have practiced. But how do you put someone who has never prosecuted a case to be a judge? Someone who has never argued a case in court! Look at the ConCourt judges, all those people, they’ve never argued cases in the court room, never! All those! So how do you run a court when you have had no experience how cases are argued before a judge?” wondered.
“So the reason we emphasise practice is because you are just flipping the coin on the other side. But these guys have no coin to flip. If you have never settled a statement of claim in your life, how can you tell me that this is a statement of claim? It’s like you, you’ve been writing articles, you’ve been a journalist all your life. Now since you have learnt the art of writing, you can graduate to become an editor. Even if I graduated from journalism school, I cannot tell you how to edit because I have no experience in writing.”