via Zambia Daily Mail by Online Editor on 6/9/13
By JIMMY CHIBUYE
THE request by Supreme Court judge Phillip Musonda to resign from the bench is premature and does not clear him of the charges of alleged professional misconduct, some civil society organisations have said.
The Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP), Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD) and Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) said in separate interviews in Lusaka yesterday that Justice Musonda should have waited for the tribunal to clear his name.
In a letter dated June 4, 2013 to President Sata, Justice Musonda said staying on at the Supreme Court will be discomforting to him and his colleagues and is therefore not feasible.
Justice Musonda and High Court justices Nigel Mutuna and Charles Kajimanga have been suspended by President Sata for alleged professional misconduct.
President Sata has since appointed a tribunal, to be chaired by Malawian Judge Lovemore Chipoka, to investigate allegations against the three judges.
“He is not supposed to resign because there is a pending case against him. Let him go through the drill of the tribunal and whatever the outcome, he can then consider retiring or resigning,” FODEP executive director MacDonald Chipenzi said.
Mr Chipenzi said Justice Musonda is supposed to go on leave from his duties and wait for the tribunal to clear him of the alleged professional misconduct.
He said Justice Musonda’s decision undermines efforts of justices Mutuna and Kajimanga, who are challenging the legality of the tribunal.
“He is admitting that he is guilty by resigning, he should have waited for the tribunal. The best he can do is to apologise and confess the allegations than to rush to retire,” Mr Chipenzi said.
He said Justice Musonda will be more dishonourable to resign without his name being cleared of the allegations.
Mr Chipenzi said President Sata should reject Justice Musonda’s request and should consider it after the tribunal finishes its sittings.
And TIZ president Lee Habasonda described Justice Musonda’s request to resign from the bench as unfortunate and an action which will rob Zambians of an opportunity to know the truth behind the allegation of professional misconduct he is facing.
Mr Habasonda said Justice Musonda’s resignation will seem as though he is trying to protect the judiciary but Zambians are interested to know if he is guilty or not of the alleged professional misconduct.
“The tribunal is a good platform that would have given Justice Musonda an opportunity to clear his name and the doubt in Zambians,” he said.
SACCORD information officer Obby Chibuluma said although it is right to resign, Justice Musonda should have waited for the tribunal to conclude its investigations.
Mr Chibuluma said Justice Musonda’s decision does not come at the right time because the action will not clear his name of the allegation he is facing.
“If the President accepts his [Justice Musonda’s] request, it will mean he will leave the judiciary with a tag of professional misconduct. We would love the judge to hang on until he has his name cleared,” he said.
Last year, President Sata rejected Justice Musonda’s request to resign after he suspended him along with Justices Mutuna and Kajimanga over alleged professional misconduct.
The trio has been suspended regarding the way they conducted themselves in a civil case involving Development Bank of Zambia as complainant and The Post Newspapers, JCN Holdings and Mutembo Nchito as defendants.
Since its appointment in May last year, the tribunal to be chaired by Judge Chipoka, retired judges Thomas Ndhlovu and Naboth Mwanza as members and Chipili Katunasa as secretary, has never sat.
This is because of the applications to block the tribunal by Justices Musonda, Mutuna and Kajimanga with the latest one being the challenge of the legality of the tribunal filed by Judges Mutuna and Kajimanga.
Last week, Ndola High Court judge Mwiinde Siavwapa granted Justices Mutuna and Kajimanga an application to commence judicial review challenging the legality of the tribunal.
This will also act as a stay of the tribunal proceedings, which were scheduled to start on June 18 this year.