Zambian Judges Low Wages Worrying …says Counsel John Sangwa could affect justice

John Sangwa

Zambian Judges Low Wages Worrying
…says Counsel John Sangwa could affect justice

From The Conversation-21.01.23

State Counsel John Sangwa has described as a ´concerning´ the extremely ´low salaries´ Zambian judges earn that could compromise their justice in the long run.

The respected constitutional lawyer also lamented at the fact that the ´lowly paid´ and ´over worked´ judges are saddled with hundreds of cases that cannot be disposed of on time to ensure that justice is not only ´done´ but is ´seen to be done´ in the southern African country.

“Its criminal to pay a Zambian high court judges about $1000 (K26,000) per month and expect the best output from them under such a high cost of living and heavy work load they carry,” SC Sangwa said.

He was speaking to Ambassador Anthony Mukwita, an author and international relations pundit on the side-lines of a new widely followed online programme ´The Conversation´ in Lusaka over the weekend.

Sangwa said the ´small number of judges´ plus the low wages must be quickly addressed and a long-term solution found because it is basically a legal powder keg waiting to explode.

“How can you have about 100 judges in the whole country against a population of 20 million its crazy,” Sangwa said, “ it is even worse if you look at the General Division (of the courts of Zambia) that has 12 judges to handle about 2300 cased per year, just crunch the numbers you will see that the picture doesn’t fit and what is important is that the current government (UPND) should acknowledge he problem and start working on solving it for the future and not pretend the problem doesn’t exist.”

He also described as fallacious the fact that high court judges with thousands of cases before them earn far much less money than constitutional court judges that only handle a handful of cases per year.
Away from the judicial side of things in Zambia, the State Counsel bemoaned the ´shrinking democratic space´ in Zambia where the opposition and civil society are restricted from ´free association and free expression.´

“It’s not democratic to disallow the opposition to hold public rallies for two and half years neither is it democratic to interfere in the internal affairs of an opposition party Zambians must fight for democracy or else all hope of Zambia as a democracy is gone,” said Sangwa.

Sangwa said politicians should remember that a ´silent Zambian´ is more dangerous than a noisy one allowed to freely associate and express because they remain silent until voting day.

In rating the seven Presidents of Zambia, Sangwa´s number one pick is the late Frederick Chiluba whom he hailed as the man behind liberalising the economy and starting the tough and rough journey to dismantle Zambia´s $7 billion debt that was completed under the late President Levy Mwanawasa.

He also commended and described the only living former President of Zambia Edgar Lungu, “ for amending the constitution and bringing the 50pc plus one clause at a time when it disadvantaged him the most in 2016, including bringing dignity of former Presidents by making it difficult for them to be abused by successors once they lost office as the case had been with Rupiah Banda and Chiluba.”

The respected lawyer also cautioned the current UPND government that at the rate the socio economic is going in Zambia, the ruling party would lose an election if held today or 2026, “unless they rig it but on a free and fair platform, they cannot win an election I can guarantee you now as I predicted the 2021 loss of the PF.

He ended with a question, “I ask you if we went to the polls today, can you tell me why Zambians should re elect the current government. I also pray that the polarisation in Zambia ends now.”

State Counsel Sangwa on polarisation said, “If you ask the PF and other opposition today whether things be it the high cost of living in Zambia is ok, they will tell you ´things are bad´. As the same questions to guys in the UPND they will look you into the face and tell you ´everything is alright,´ that´s polarisation.”

The full interview hosted by Amb. Emmanuel Mwamba is available online on Smart Eagles. In picture above, SC Sangwa chats with Amb. Mukwita.

Source: The Conversation/ Smart Eagles


  1. The real wage a High Court judge gets from the state is of course higher than K26,000 per month. They have free housing, a free 4×4 personal-to-holder car, free security and on retirement, they get a pension for life. It’s too much to expect John Sangwa to think on these lines. So I understand why he holds the view he holds.

    • Probably includes water and electricity. Sangwa shouldn’t go unchallenged. He should be taken on. He can’t continue having this personal grudge and unwarranted criticism. If he wants to become a politician, he is welcome. But as a Senior State Counsel he can’t continue with his Champaign. His conduct and utterances are out of touch for someone holding the title of State Counsel. If he continues like this, we shall lobby the Presidency to revoke his appointment as SC.

  2. Is Sanger a Judge or he is just trying to incite them. Why can’t he let them speak for themselves ? Surely too much learning confuses some people.

  3. John Sangwa clearly does not understand what it means to be in an economic and financial crisis. It can easily get nasty here and the government would struggle to continue to hold the country together through its security services. If we reach such a stage, even he would be unable to run his law firm Simeza-Sangwa & Associates which has made him rich and vocal. Right now Zambia is surviving on the kindness of its foreign creditors. If they were to squeeze us, I repeat, it would get really nasty here. Not even lawyers and judges would don their robes and drive to courts in expensive 4x4s to practise law.


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