SET Challenges The Chief Justice …Over Charles Kafunda’s decision to suspend Magistrate Benjamin Mwelwa

The Patriots for Economic Progress (PeP) has noted with regret the unlawful decision by the Acting Chief Registrar of the Judiciary Charles Kafunda to suspend Livingstone based Class II Magistrate of the Subordinate Court,  Benjamin Mwelwa from duty in a letter dated 7th August 2017.

PeP leader Sean Enock Tembo said: “The reason given by the Acting Chief Registrar for the suspension is that the Court in which the Magistrate was presiding decided to stay a matter involving the People Vs. Maambo and Others in which the DPP sought to enter a nolle pro sequi and the defence challenged the DPP to furnish reasons for seeking to enter the nolle, arguing that the Constitution demands that the DPP must furnish reasons for entering a nolle pro sequi. The Court decided to stay the case pending determination by the High Court of the Constitutional issues raised by the defence.”

He said the considered view of the  Patriots for Economic Progress is  that the action of the Acting Chief Registrar to suspend the Judicial Officer for a decision taken by the court is a blatant disregard of various laws which seek to protect the independence of a court in adjudicating on matters.

” First and foremost, the powers of a Chief Registrar are clearly outlined in Section 8 of the Judicial Administration Act of 2016 and do not include the power to suspend a Judicial Officer. According to the Judicial Complaints Commission (JCC) Act, a Magistrate can only be suspended after being found guilty of misconduct by the JCC,” Tembo said.

He said additionally, Section 55 of the Subordinate Court Act, Chapter 28 of the Laws of Zambia specifically protects a Judicial Officer from any legal or administrative action for any act done or omitted to be done in the exercise of their duties while presiding in Court.

The opposition leader said the action of the Acting Chief Registrar to suspend the Magistrate also violates the Republican Constitution which protects and guarantees the independence of judicial officers.

“Based on the aforesaid, the PeP has since written to the Chief Justice to bring to her attention the misconduct of one of her Administrative Officers, the Acting Chief Registrar,” he explained.

Tembo said PeP   also demanded for the immediate reinstatement Magistrate Mwelwa to duty without any delay.

“We have also called on the Chief Justice to consider possible disciplinary action against the erring Acting Chief Registrar for his gross misconduct in suspending the Livingstone based Magistrate,” he stated.

Tembo remind individual with positions of authority in all arms of government and its various agencies, to resist the temptation of abusing their authority.