Friday, 16 May 2008


By Gershom Ndhlovu

Now that Chief Justice Ernest Sakala has himself come out on the issue of corruption in the judiciary, we outsiders can come in and finish off the carcass which we previously failed to tackle for fear of being contemptuous of the judicial system.

As Justice Sakala pointed out, corruption in the court system starts from the local courts to the highest levels of the judiciary. By its very nature, corruption is a very difficult case to tackle because it works on a satisfied-client-basis. What I mean is that both the “briber” and the “bribed” get what they want and carry on as if nothing has happened.

If the benefit is very high to the one who has offered a bribe or from whom a bribe has been solicited, none of the two would be obliged to report the matter to law enforcement agencies.

Technically, both are potentially culpable unless one of the two reports “being offered a bribe” or “being solicited for a bribe” and that is normally why the ACC or other investigative agencies would record warn and caution statements from the giver and the receiver or the “offerer” and the “offeree” if there are such terms.

In the case of the judiciary, someone facing a court process, criminal or civil, will want to influence the outcome of the case in his/her favour and the only way to do it is by finding weak minded court officials from court clerks to the local court justices, magistrates and judges to short-circuit the process.

To pretend that this does not happen is to pretend that the sun rises in the west and sets in the east. It is so obvious even the blind can see it.

Sometimes even lawyers are involved in “fixing” cases in this way. Some court officials do it with such impunity they state to those close to them about what they will eat without taking bribes with statements like “You know our job; I can’t refuse the money if I am offered?”

Higher up in the judicial system, court marshals come in as middlemen for the judges they work for. These are the people who handle the “dirty cash” for which they get shares and hence build the mansions that Justice Sakala talked about. These are the people who are able to drink beer everyday of the month when others are struggling on their meagre salaries.

Apart from the judiciary whose chief executive has accepted what goes on in his domain, other hotbeds of corruption are the Zambia Revenue Authority, Police, Passport Office, Immigration, Road Traffic and Safety Agency and the ministry of lands.

Because of the ubiquitous nature of the police service which makes them come into regular contact with ordinary citizens who feel the effects of even parting away with a K50, 000 to a policeman and are therefore prone to be reported, other departments like ZRA in which huge amounts of money exchange hands for the passage or release of goods, chances of such activities being reported to the ACC are very slim.

I know that Inspector General of Police Ephraim Mateyo also harps on the issue of corruption, but heads of other government departments should come clean on corruption like Justice Sakala did last week by admitting the existence of the problem in their midst.

The fight against corruption might not have been as effective as desired, but the fact that President Mwanawasa himself speaks out against corruption is a positive sign in itself which should give impetus to the ACC and other collaborative agencies to fight the scourge.

Those who have followed the history of the ACC will remember that from 1991 when the MMD came to power under Chiluba, the institution was strangled to near-death due, perhaps, to deliberate under-funding which prevented the commission from effectively carrying out its mandate. At that time the commission only had four offices in the entire country.

Coincidentally, that was the time the Special Investigating Team on Economy and Trade (SITET) was scrapped. SITET was effective as a deterrent against unscrupulous businesspeople and civil servants who always feared on knock on their door. What we, as a nation, saw after that can only be described as shameful the way the nation’s resources were plundered thereafter.



With the rising cases of post-election violence in neighbouring Zimbabwe, it is difficult to appreciate the efforts of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union in resolving the “no-crisis” crisis in that country.

Both pictures and stories that are coming out of Zimbabwe point to state sponsored and systematic brutality in which people are being killed, maimed and humiliated in what ZANU-PF militia are calling “re-education” to change their political views.

It may appear as if the trip by the so-called SADC troika to Zimbabwe in the last few days as well as the visit of AU executive secretary Jean Ping to that country were mere tea-party jaunts because nothing much has changed in levels of violence.

Medical personnel rarely comment on political issues, but if the desperate voices of Zimbabwean doctors and nurses who are having to treat the victims of the government sponsored violence are anything to go by, the situation will degenerate into something worse than 1994 Rwanda genocide.

Insensitive Zimbabwean government leaders even question those who are likening the situation to that of Rwanda saying the violence does not involve any ethnic groups and is therefore not ‘tribal.’

But the fact that people are being hunted for not voting for President Mugabe, makes matters even direr.

AU and SADC chairpersons Jakaya Kikwete and Levy Mwanawasa should not rely on Thabo Mbeki as mediator because he appears to be biased in favour of Mugabe. If what is coming out about an agreement he had with Mugabe for him to delay land grabbing to facilitate a smooth transition in South Africa in 1994 is true, then he should definitely be ditched as mediator because he will be seen as paying a debt to Mugabe.

Those interested in reading more about what is going on Zimbabwe should visit


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