28 January 2013

Zambia: 'Speed Up Judicial Reforms'

THE Catholic Church has urged Government to expedite implementation of reforms in the Judiciary.

In a Pastoral letter released in Lusaka yesterday, the Catholic Church, through its bishops, also demanded to know the status of Malawian High Court Judge Lovemore Chikopa-led tribunal and why there was still an acting Chief Justice and her deputy.

Mr Justice Chikopa and other members were appointed to the tribunal to probe alleged corruption and impropriety by three judges who were suspended but later sought court relief.

But chief Government spokesperson, Kennedy Sakeni said the Patriotic Front (PF) Government values its partnership with the Church and is, therefore, reluctant to comment on national issues through the media.

"This Government further wishes to restate that it will neither depart nor relax on its commitment to upholding the fundamental tenets of democracy, good governance and the rule of law as espoused in its manifesto," Mr Sakeni said in a statement issued in Lusaka yesterday.

Mr Sakeni, who is Information and Broadcasting Services Minister, said President Michael Sata was running an open-door and inclusive Government in which all stakeholders were free to engage in dialogue over any issues of concern in building a prosperous Zambia.

The bishops wondered when Zambia would witness progress on the 'much-talked-about' reforms in the judicial system.

The letter issued by the Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC) stated that there were many unresolved questions of public interest that had been left hanging by the Executive.

The letter said the Church was also concerned about the manner in which the Public Order Act was being applied in the country.

"While we commend the police for efforts they are making in combating crime, ensuring law and order, their enforcement of the Public Order Act leaves much to be desired," reads the letter in part.

It said the unfair restriction of people's liberties was breeding dangerous discontent.

"We call upon the Government to embrace the spirit of democracy before the nation is plunged into chaos. The Public Order Act, in its current form, has no place in our statutes and needs to be repealed," the letter signed by 12 bishops says.

The letter titled 'Act justly and walk humbly with your God', stated that a people-driven Constitution had continued to elude the nation as the PF Government that had promised to deliver such within 90 days of being in power had not done so 16 months down the line.

Additionally, the letter says there were a number of misgivings on the Draft Constitution such as the non-publication of the projected budget for the Constitution-making process which citizens needed to know.

The letter expressed concern over Government's alleged lack of spirit for dialogue, citing Government's announcement of the creation of new political boundaries and governance structures, and changes in the education sector as some of the areas where there was no dialogue.

The Catholic Church was hopeful that the new Constitution would provide a mechanism that would control the occurrence of unnecessary by-elections.

On the mobile sim card registration, the pastoral statement called on Government to put in place legal guarantees for the protection of personal data and privacy.

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