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 2009-11-27 11:46 am Back to NEWS
MPs oppose Judge Chulu, Prof Mvunga’s appointments
FLASHBACK: Professor Mvunga (4th from right) in President Banda’s entourage in Swaziland when the President visited King Mswati

PF and UPND members of parliament on Wednesday opposed the Presidential appointments of Lusaka High Court judge Essau Elliot Chulu and Professor Patrick Mvunga to the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) and the Judicial Complaints Authority, describing the duo as friends of the President.

Debating the report of the Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to scrutinise the Presidential appointments of judge Chulu, who is President Rupiah Banda's close relative and Prof Mvunga to serve as ECZ commissioner and member of Judicial Complaints Authority respectively, Kantanshi PF member of parliament Yamfwa Mukanga opposed the appointments of the two individuals.

“Those who aspire to be bishops should be above suspicion. The same applies to these nominees. The Electoral Commission of Zambia is a very important commission because it can unite or destroy Zambia. It is for this reason that we need people of great calibre,” Mukanga said. “Professor Mvunga was involved in the Dora (Siliya) Tribunal and failed… what integrity are we talking about? I question as to whether it's prudent to ratify that person. We saw the Professor on the presidential entourage to Swaziland and America.

“What will stop a State Counsel from being compromised? We have seen State Counsels being compromised. We have seen some State Counsel taken to Cuba. The Judicial Complaints Authority can be compromised if we have people of compromised calibre.”
Mukanga argued that judge Chulu was about 67 years old and therefore too old to be appointed to ECZ.

“If you want a lawyer, you can even get young ones. These jobs are not jobs for friends. They are supposed to be for people of high integrity,” he said.

Mukanga also said there was need for tribal balancing at ECZ.

“Four out of five commissioners are from Eastern Province. I think that's where a problem is. Why should we only be talking about people from Eastern Province? We need to have a balance,” Mukanga said. “We have a President from Eastern Province, we have a Chief Justice who is supposed to be a returning officer from Eastern Province, we have the chairperson of ECZ from Eastern Province.”

Mukanga stressed that when appointing people, there are issues that should be taken into consideration. He said Lusaka lawyer John Sangwa has a case against judge Chulu, who is the judge-in-charge but before the case is disposed off, there is already a nomination.

“I urge people from this side not to support this nomination,” he said.

And Kalomo UPND member of parliament Request Muntanga also objected to the appointments.

“The job they are going for is a job that will be superintending politicians. Therefore, a person going there shall not hold any suspicion. If today Zambia was playing Ghana and a Mr Dhlamba is appointed referee, Zambia will complain whether he is qualified or not,” Muntanga said and observed that there was a complaint against judge Chulu at the Judicial Complaints Authority.

“To barely say 'no we shouldn't discuss certain issues' we are burying the head in the sand. We should be sensitive enough when you are taking a person to go in the ECZ, they should be above suspicion.

“A State Counsel who has been with the President everywhere and he has been told 'you are going to stand for the State' and things have gone wrong…Zambians know these things. For the judge who is on contract, why give him another contract? Get other people. Julius Ceasar said 'I am divorcing my wife, she must be above suspicion'…I’m saying they (judge Chulu and Prof Mvunga) must be above suspicion.”

And Tourism minister Catherine Namugala said issues being raised concerning appointees that they came from a certain region were unfair.

She said she got worried as a mother when people debated on tribal lines.
And Bangweulu member of parliament Joseph Kasongo also spoke against debating on tribal lines.

But Roan PF member of parliament Chishimba Kambwili criticised Kasongo, saying that it was extremely disappointing that people failed to be consistent. He said it was the same Kasongo who defended the acquittal of former president Frederick Chiluba.

“If Chiluba did not come from Luapula, he could not have supported him,” Kambwili said.

He said there was need to be sensitive to the issue of tribalism.
“Today, ECZ has no confidence of Zambians and it will be wrong to be taking people from one province into this commission. The nomination of judge Chulu is unacceptable by all standards,” Kambwili said. “Even elections that are free and fair will be deemed not to be free and fair because you have your people.”

Kambwili said the issue of tribalism in the country was real.

He said there were records to show that President Banda had openly practiced tribalism when he went to distribute sugar in Vulamukoko in Eastern Province.

Kambwili's line of debate followed heckles from the opposition side who complained that President Banda was favouring people from Eastern Province with key government positions.

“The President was telling the people of Vulamukoko when he went to distribute sugar in the presence of Hon Namugala Catherine that 'I am your own, so vote for me,” Kambwili said. “Mr. Speaker, the issues of tribalism are real and they should be taken seriously.”

Kambwili opposed the appointment of Prof Mvunga, arguing that it would not help the impartiality of the Judicial Complaints Commission for a practicing lawyer to be a member of the body charged with monitoring the conduct of judicial workers.

“How does a practicing lawyer sit to hear the magistrates and judges that he appears before in courts? How is he going to deliver a ruling that is impartial? It's a matter of integrity and morality,” said Kambwili.

But lands minister Peter Daka said the colour, tribe and character of the person did not matter when a person was being considered for appointment to public officer.

Daka, who is also MMD Msanzala member of parliament, said MPs were lowering the standards of National Assembly by debating along tribal considerations.

“What is the tribe of Guy Scott and Given Lubinda?” wondered Daka, amidst protest from Lubinda. “…Even in the Northern Province, Hon Namugala is said not to be Bemba. Now, let me ask Hon Kambwili how he is going to treat his vice president who has got no tribe and who is the one the chief rejected…”

Daka said this in an apparent reference to paramount chief Chitimukulu's assertions during the Kasama by election that he could not vote for PF who had a white man for vice president.

Presidential affairs minister Ronald Mukuma said President Banda had shown impartiality in the manner he had been making appointments of public officers.

Mukuma who said the President reserved the right to choose people to work with and that President Banda had shown impartiality by taking on board most people from his predecessor, the late president Levy Mwanawasa.

Mukuma said he was not surprised that the people out there were beginning to lose confidence in the current crop of MPs because of certain lines of debate, such as debating on tribal lines.

“We should not come here to get allowances just to say tribal things,” said Mukuma. “Electoral Commission is very sensitive; you just can't pick someone because he has a degree…”

After a heated debate, Speaker Amusaa Mwanamwambwa subjected the motion to an electronic vote after his initial oral-based vote ruling in favour of MMD was rejected by the opposition.

After the electronic vote, the ruling MMD won with 76 votes while the PF/UPND members had 37 votes. There was one absentee vote.

And according to the report of the Ben Mwila-led Parliamentary Select Committee, the witnesses who appeared before the committee were unanimous in describing Prof Mvunga as a person of integrity, impartial and fearless.

The findings also observed that most witnesses said judge Chulu was a disciplinarian who is highly meticulous and strict with rules of an institution.

“In view of the foregoing, your committee are of the view that the nominees are eminently qualified and competent to serve in the positions to which they are appointed,” Mwila submitted.

“Your committee strongly recommend that the House to ratify the Presidential appointment of judge Esau Elliot Chulu and Prof Patrick Mphanza Mvunga, SC, to serve the nation in the noble offices of Commissioner of the Electoral Commission of Zambia and Member of the Judicial Complaints Authority respectively.”

But in the other submissions, which were made to the committee, the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) submitted that judge Chulu had retired.

“In response to the committee's concern that the appointment of judge Essau Elliot Chulu to serve on the Electoral commission would deprive the bench of his services, LAZ responded in the negative, explaining that the nominee had retired and was, therefore, serving the bench on contract. In this case, the nominee was due to leave the bench soon,” read the report in part.

And the vice-chairperson of the Judicial Complaints Authority informed the committee that a search of their records revealed a complaint lodged against judge Chulu by Sangwa and two others for alleged misconduct.

“The vice-chairperson submitted that in the course of the commission's investigations of the complaint, the complainants filed a petition in the High Court against the Judicial Complaints Authority and the Attorney General.

The Authority, therefore, resolved to hold the complaint in abeyance pending the outcome of the petition in the court of law,” the report stated. “As to whether the Authority had received any other complaints against judge Chulu, the vice-chairperson responded that he was aware of another complaint against the nominee in which the complainant sought to disagree with a decision of the nominee as judge of the High Court. However, the Authority found no prima facie case as the complainant had the right to appeal to the higher court against the nominee's decision.”

(The Post)

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