THE public will no doubt be elated by the change of guard at the helm of our country's Judiciary, for it comes at a time when public confidence in the judicial system was at its lowest ebb following persistent calls from a cross-section of society demanding judicial reforms.
Demands for reforms have been premised on a perception - real or imagined - that some members of the judiciary are tainted by allegations of impropriety and should be investigated.
As a consequence of these allegations, a perception has been created, albeit unwittingly, that some members of the bench may indeed be involved in acts of impropriety - a situation that has cast aspersions on the integrity of the bench as a whole, thus undermining public confidence in a very important institution of governance.
The scenario which was fast emerging in the aftermath of the demands for judicial reforms was one of mutual mistrust between the Executive, on one hand, and the Judiciary, on the other.
It has been evident from numerous public pronouncements that neither the Executive nor the Judiciary trusted each other.
Mutual mistrust and suspicion was bound to impact negatively on the whole justice delivery system.
Chief Justice Ernest Sakala and acting Deputy Chief Justice Dennis Chirwa are both senior judges who have rendered long service in the Judiciary, and they have not been accused of any wrong-doing.
However, under the prevailing circumstances, the position of the Chief Justice and that of his deputy had become untenable.
It is right and fitting that the two have proceeded on leave pending contract expiry and retirement, respectively.
As we have stated before in this column, checks and balances are the bedrock upon which a viable and functional democratic system is founded.
No institution should be perceived to be so sacrosanct that its actions cannot be questioned by anybody.
The actions of any of the three arms of the State - the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary - can be challenged, criticised or denounced by various interest groups, particularly our country's robust and vocal civil society. This is what democracy entails.
One example will suffice: When Parliament was perceived to have acted in a high-handed and arbitrary manner by imposing a jail term on POST Newspapers Editor-in-Chief Fred Mmembe, that action was promptly checked and reversed by the High Court which ruled that Parliament had usurped the powers of the Judiciary.
Under the principle of separation of powers, each of the three key organs of the State guards its 'territory' jealously and does not countenance intrusion or, to borrow the cliché, interference in its affairs.
However, in reality, the three State organs have to work in harmony - the autonomy enjoyed by each arm notwithstanding.
Failure to achieve this harmony can create anarchy and paralyse the State apparatus.
We also welcome the appointment of two long-serving Supreme Court Judges, Ms Justice Lombe Chibesakunda and Ms Justice Florence Mumba as Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice, respectively.
The two female judges have served the bench with honour and integrity and deserve the elevation.
They have acquitted themselves well thus far and we are confident the bench and the public at large will benefit from their wise counsel.
President Michael Sata is living up to his pledge to uplift women by appointing deserving female candidates to key positions.
Six key governance institutions, namely the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Drug Enforcement Commission, the Zambia Police Service, the Auditor-General's office, the Human Rights Commission and the all-important organ, the Judiciary, are all headed by women who have distinguished themselves in their respective careers.
We hope the appointment of the new Chief Justice and her deputy will speed up the pace of the much-anticipated reforms in the Judiciary in response to demands by the Law Association of Zambia, civil society and the public at large.