Judicial tenure: navigating the waters of politics and upholding justice
By Dr Lawrence Mwelwa
Throughout history, there have been courageous and principled judges who have stood up against dictatorial leaders, upholding justice and the rule of law. Their actions serve as a reminder of the importance of judicial independence and the need for judges to remain committed to their ethical obligations.
In the face of adversity, these judges demonstrated unwavering integrity and an unwavering commitment to delivering justice. Their landmark decisions have left an indelible mark on the legal landscape, serving as a testament to the power of the judiciary to protect individual rights and defend against government interference.
Lord Denning, a British judge known for his landmark decisions, played a crucial role in defending judicial independence during the era of dictators. His judgments strongly advocated for individual rights and against government interference. Similarly, justice Miles Lord, a prominent American federal judge, made several landmark decisions challenging dictatorial powers, even in the face of political pressure. Justice Hans-Joachim Konzack, a German judge, also defied dictatorial leaders, making significant contributions to upholding the rule of law during the Cold War era in East Germany. Despite intense pressure from the communist regime, he made several landmark decisions safeguarding human rights and defending individuals persecuted by the state.
In South Africa, justice Arthur Chaskalson, as the first Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court after apartheid, made numerous landmark decisions safeguarding constitutional rights. His judgments helped solidify the notion of an independent judiciary and constitutional democracy in the country. Arthur T. Vanderbilt, a renowned American judge, made groundbreaking decisions during the era of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, challenging dictatorial tendencies and upholding the constitutionality of government programmes.
One cannot forget the brave Malawian judge, justice Healey Potani, who nullified election results in 2020 due to widespread irregularities, ensuring a fair election process. His decision, despite strong opposition, demonstrated his commitment to upholding democracy and the rule of law, setting a precedent for the judiciary in Malawi.
These judges serve as inspiring examples of judicial integrity and courage. Their decisions were not influenced by personal gain or external pressures, but rather guided by a sense of duty and ethical responsibility. They acted as guardians of justice, defending the rights of individuals and protecting the principles of democracy. Their stories should serve as a reminder to Zambian court officers to learn from history. In the face of political pressure or attempts to use the judiciary as a tool for persecution, judges must remain steadfast in their commitment to justice. They should never allow themselves to be influenced by financial considerations or personal gain.
Upholding justice and the rule of law is a noble and essential duty for judges. They must prioritise their ethical obligations and remain independent and impartial, making decisions solely based on the law and the evidence presented before them. By emulating the courage and integrity of these historic judges, Zambian court officers can help ensure that justice prevails in the face of any challenges. They can create a legacy of fairness, honesty, and objectivity – a legacy that will foster public trust and confidence in the judiciary and reinforce the credibility of the judicial system. As officers of the court, the responsibility lies in their hands to make decisions that will stand the test of time – decisions that will uphold justice and protect the fundamental principles of democracy. Let us learn from history and be judges who remain true to the principles of justice, irrespective of the circumstances we may face.
The author is a respected academician, politician, musician, and revolutionary writer. For feedback write to: email@example.com