CHIEF Justice Luke Malaba and the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) have expressed grief over the death of the Chief Justice of Zambia Irene Chirwa Mambilima on Sunday in Cairo, Egypt.
Chief Justice Mambilima was attending a high-level meeting for Chief Justices and Presidents of African Constitutional and Supreme Courts and Constitutional Council in Egypt, when she died.
In a statement, JSC said Chief Justice Luke Malaba, judges of all courts, all magistrates, Commissioners of the JSC and all other members of the Judicial Service expressed shock and profound sadness on the death of Chief Justice Mambilima.
The JSC said it interacted often with Chief Justice Mambilima and the sister judiciary of Zambia, with which it shared deep historical ties.
Justice Mambilima was also the vice chairperson of the Southern Africa Chief Justices’ Forum (SAJEF) of which Zimbabwe is a member.
“During our countless engagements, the Zambian and Zimbabwean judiciaries developed strategies and shared experiences aimed at fostering judicial independence, the development of jurisprudence and strengthen the general administration of justice not only in the two countries but the entire Southern African region,” said the JSC.
“We are aware of the grief that our brothers and sisters in Zambia have been plunged into by the tragic and unexpected passing on of Chief Justice Mambilima.
“The grief is made more unbearable as it comes at a time when Zambia is still mourning the departure of Zambia’s founding father and liberation of Southern Africa icon, Dr Kenneth Kaunda.
“We wish to express our profound and heartfelt condolences to the people of Zambia generally and members of the Zambian judiciary in particular.
“We pray that the Mambilima family gets comfort from the Lord and find strength in the immeasurable contributions to the administration of justice in Zambia for which the late Chief Justice sacrificed her entire life,” said JSC.
Zambia’s Deputy Chief Justice Michael Musonda said arrangements to repatriate the body of Justice Mambilima were underway and urged mourners to comply with pandemic’s health guidelines and stick to the restricted number of 50 people.
Justice Musonda said books of condolences have been opened at the Supreme Court in Zambia and the funeral house for those wishing to pass their messages of condolence until the date of burial.
Judge Musonda said the late justice Mambilima whom he regarded as a true legendary, legal luminary, and iconic speaker, was a bridge between the past and the future for the period she served in the Judiciary.
“She was the first female loyal servant of the law and justice. She represented every good that you can possibly find in the human space. Because of the long period that she spent in the institution, she was the bridge between the past and the future because she was involved in practicing futuristic jurisprudition and she worked tirelessly to modernise this institution (Judiciary),” justice Musonda said.
“This is an exceptional human being, she did not look at how high or low you were, she entertained everybody. She was so humble and unassuming as a leader. It is impossible to imagine this institution (Judiciary) without her because she represented everything good that you can never imagine as a lawyer, judge and human being.”
Justice Musinda said justice Mambilima had been acclaimed internationally.
“I have received messages across the world, all commending and applauding her as an example, as an international jurist of international stature not only to Zambia but to the Commonwealth and the entire humanity through her selfless contribution, dedication to duty and through her hard work,” Judge Musonda said.
He gave a rundown of justice Mambilima’s character.
“It’s difficult to find words for what the Chief Justice meant to this country, our region, the Commonwealth and the world. She was an example of an incredible human being. It’s difficult to go on, I don’t want to show emotions and break down because I worked closely with her and knew that it is difficult to have another human being like her. She educated so many people in the heirarchy of this nation. She was number three or number four but she was so humble, she respected older people in the family and respected tradition,” justice Musonda said.
“I had a chance to travel with her and her husband major Mambilima and we talked about a song which a musician (DRIMZ) did in honour of judge Mambilima and Major Mambilima told me that if that singer behind that song knew what truly this lady means, he doesn’t know what he would have said. He said this (Justice Mambilima) is an extraordinary human being. Many of us have learnt useful things from her the best that a human being can offer. I wish many people could draw lessons from that example. It is impossible but people can just try.”
Justice Musonda said justice Mambilima was a solid rock who subscribed to justice and a well functioning independent judiciary.
“Her experience in this country was not just limited to the corridors of her law court. She spent years at the Electoral Commission of Zambia. She had experience way beyond the confines of law. She found herself dealing with politics and politicians, including governance issues. She (the late chief justice) is a true champion of good governance because of the time she spent at ECZ,” he said.
“She had a versatile and broad legacy, she leaves behind so much good not just to the Judiciary but to the ECZ, the NGO community. Messages have been pouring from every corner and everyone is unanimous that we have lost a true giant of democracy, justice, rule of law and good governance. Without an independent judiciary, the rights of individuals would be in serious jeopardy.
She was very steadfast, completely unmoved, she was a solid rock.”
Justice Musonda emphasized that justice Mambilima’s endowment should be honoured by undertaking the responsibility of saving human lives.
“If there is anything to honour her memory, it is to follow her example on her take on governance, human rights and justice and so many other things because she was so involved in humanitarian causes,” he said.
He hinted that her body would arrive in the country in two days’ time.
“Our colleagues in Cairo must be in the final stages of completing the formalities. I am so certain we will pass the task of having to bring the remains of our chief justice, in a day or two we will have the body of the chief justice,” judge Musonda said.
He disclosed that the chief justice was attending a summit for heads of Judiciary Egypt at the time of her death on Sunday June 20.
“For the past five years, justice Mambilima and judge Chibomba were guests of the Egyptian Presindent who was organising a conference for heads of Judiciary in Africa. It’s a super summit for leaders of institutions. She had gone for a conference which had been happening on a yearly basis. She was accompanied by a High Court judge because judge Chibomba is busy with solving disputes relating to this year’s elections,” said Judge Musonda.
“Farewell my boss, my mentor, our inspiration, our rock, the rock of justice, our role model a legal and luminary. A legendary jurist of global stature. A personification and faithful servant of justice. A selfless, dedicated, unassuming leader, a humble intellectual. We truly thank the Chirwa and Mambilima families for sharing this legal giant with us, this truly extraordinary human being with no comparison. Sincere and heartfelt condolences, go well CJ, we shall miss you sorely,” read his message of condolences.
And Law Association of Zambia president Abyudi Shonga said justice Mambilima would be remembered for her humility and her stance in uniting all sections of the judiciary. ■