Livingstone, 16th December 2020- The Magistrates and Judges Association of Zambia (MAJAZ) is currently holding the Tri-Annual General Meeting and Elective Conference at the Avani Victoria Falls Resort in Livingstone under the theme “Improving Institutional Capacity for Effective Service Delivery”.
Speaking during the Keynote address to over 120 delegates, the Hon. Chief Justice Mrs. Irene C. Mambilima stated the role that Judges and Magistrates play in being at the apex of the core mandate of the Judiciary; which is to adjudicate fairly and competently matters brought before it. She emphasised the importance and necessity for continuous training and skills development, and highlighted that professional associations, such as MAJAZ play an important role in this regard. Her Ladyship encouraged adjudicators to join the Association, not only to meet and interact with fellow professionals but also to take advantage of conferences such as the one currently ongoing to widen their knowledge base. She quoted Principle 9 of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary (UN Basic Principles) in encouraging such associations states: –
“Judges shall be free to form and join associations of judges or other organizations to represent their interests, to promote their professional training and to protect their judicial independence.”
In his speech the Hon. Mr. Justice Charles Mkandawire, President of the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association (CMJA) and Judge of the Supreme Court of Malawi thanked MAJAZ for the invitation to the conference. He lauded MAJAZ on the theme which is pertinent in jurisdictions across the commonwealth. He encouraged the Judiciary of Zambia to continually develop in areas such as Public Relations, publication of Annual Reports, the use of information technology and a change of cultural practice, as it strives for better service delivery. He said that citizens expect the judiciary to operate as a service and can now hold the institution accountable for delayed delivery of judgements and poor service delivery. He bemoaned the barriers in access to justice such as backlog, antiquated court facilities, inefficiency of funding and poor infrastructure. Justice Mkandawire noted the need to be considerate of victims of GBV and differently abled people in infrastructural developments.
Mrs. Fydess Hamaundu, President of MAJAZ welcomed the delegates to the conference which would equip them with tools to enable them carry out their duties effectively. She underscored that the aim of the Association is to safeguard independence of the Judiciary as a guarantee of human rights. Mrs. Hamaundu in giving a brief background to MAJAZ said that the Association last held a meeting in April 2017, and that prior to that, no meeting had been held since 2009, which meant that no elections had been held for close to 3 terms. Consequently, several people had left the association during the period of inactivity, and this reflected in several challenges such as leadership gaps, making and a near defunct Association.
As part of the success story, Mrs. Hamaundu highlighted the presence of MAJAZ in all 10 provinces. Likewise, through the ongoing membership recruitment exercise, she stated that MAJAZ now raises Eighty-Five Thousand Kwacha Monthly (K85 000) which is a 2% deduction of the basic salary of its members, as compared to the Seventeen Thousand Kwacha (K17 000) previous monthly subscription. She informed the delegates that following meeting with Minister of Justice in January 2018, MAJAZ has made submissions to the National Assembly on the Rent Act, the Subordinate Court Act as well as presentations to the Hon. Speaker on the strides taken by the association in the fight against Gender Based Violence. Mrs. Hamaundu however bemoaned the challenges faced such as low membership numbers from among Judges and poor conditions of service.