By Dr. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa
July 18, 2016
This July 18, 2016 would have been Nelson Mandela’s 98th birthday. This day is commemorated the world over and the UN has declared it the Nelson Mandela Day. Below is a link of an article I wrote some time back remembering how Mandela continues to inspire me. Today I shift to write about how Mandela would be proud of The Law Association of Zambia in their struggle for justice and the rule of law.
There was a time in South Africa just after Apartheid when they decided to have a new constitution as well as a new Constitutional Court, just like the stage Zambia has now negotiated where there is a new Constitutional Court and a new constitution-in-the making. At the inauguration of the new constitutional court in 1995, Mandela may well have been speaking to President Edgar Lungu and the new Constitutional Court Judges, when he said: “people come and go, customs, fashions, and preferences change, yet the web of fundamental rights and justice which a nation proclaims, must not be broken. It is the task of this Court to ensure that the values of freedom and equality which underlie our interim constitution and which will surely be embodied in our final constitution are nurtured and protected so that they may endure”. Time will tell whether our new Constitutional Court judges will imbibe Mandela’s wisdom. Is Lungu living up to the vision of the Legend?
To highlight the importance of the new Constitutional Court, which the new Zambian judges should pay attention to, Mandela hacked back to give a personal example of his situation dating back three decades: “the last time I appeared in court was to hear whether or not I was going to be sentenced to death. Fortunately for myself and my colleagues we were not. Today I rise not as an accused but, on behalf of the people of South Africa to inaugurate a court South Africa has never had, a court on which hinges the future of our democracy”.
Mandela has spoken about the role of lawyers in society. His message is very pertinent to the role the Law Association of Zambia is playing right now in Zambia, the struggle for justice and to maintain the rule of law. Mandela may very well have been speaking directly to the Law Association of Zambia and to unleash it to go forth to continue doing what they were legislated into being to do. He harangued, “I regard it as a duty which I owed, not just to my people, but also to my profession, to the practice of law, and to the justice to all mankind, to cry out against this (violation of the rule of law) which is essentially unjust and opposed to the whole basis of the attitude towards justice which is part of the tradition of legal training in this country. I believe that in taking up the stand against this injustice I was upholding the dignity of what should be an honourable profession”. Those who vilify LAZ should heed that LAZ is fighting for something bigger than itself. That justice is on its side.
There is so much violence and repression in Zambia currently and LAZ is walking in the footsteps of great justice activists like Martin Luther King Jr and Mumia Abu-Jamal. King reasoned, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. We have seen all types of injustices in Zambia. If it perpetrated against one entity, it naturally follows that the same injustice and violence would be perpetrated against several other entities and eventually towards the whole society.
> Mumia Abu-Jamal exhorted thus which LAZ has paid attention to when he said, “when a cause comes along and you know in your bones that it is just, yet refuse to defend it- at that moment you begin to die. And I have never seen so many corpses walking around talking about justice”. Some even fit Martin Luther King Jr.’s admonition, “those who fail to cry out against evil, may as well be conniving with it”. LAZ does not fall in this category.
To LAZ: Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mumia Abu-Jamal would be very proud of the role you are playing in the vindication of justice and the rule of law in Zambia. Zambians are especially gratified that you exist and speak up.
To you Madiba, eternal rest on this your birthday.
Dr. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa teaches law at Zambian Open University school of Law.