Two Zambian legal scholars have raised concerns regarding the recent consent orders negotiated between the government and various litigants. They are urging President Hakainde Hichilema to intervene and halt what they describe as "racketeering schemes" involving substantial sums of money.

In a joint statement, Professor Muna Ndulo and Dr. Obrien Kaaba, both esteemed law lecturers at Cornell University and the University of Zambia respectively, called upon President Hichilema to conduct a thorough evaluation of his legal team in state chambers.

They have specifically urged him to dismiss individuals involved in what they perceive as questionable practices.

While acknowledging the legitimacy of some cases, the scholars highlighted instances where the settlements or awards lacked a solid legal basis, and legal costs were deemed excessively inflated.

They cited the case of Kaizar Zulu as an example, asserting that there was no justification for the state to compensate individuals he harmed in his private capacity, as he was not representing the state.

Expressing concerns about potential conflicts of interest, Ndulo and Kaaba questioned the relationships between lawyers representing individuals and those within state chambers.

They emphasised the need for oversight institutions such as the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to scrutinise these judgments and safeguard public resources.

The legal scholars criticised the ACC for not being proactive in addressing these issues earlier, emphasising the importance of institutional transformation to combat corruption effectively.

They have called for a redesign of institutions like the ACC to enhance their capabilities, ensuring true professionalism and independence.

"The deals at the Ministry of Justice clearly indicate that to have a sustainable fight against corruption, it is not enough that the top national leadership is committed to the eradication of corruption. We need institutional transformation," they said.

Ndulo and Kaaba reiterated their stance that any attempt to exploit such cases for personal gain within the state chambers must be promptly halted to prevent corruption.

They emphasised the necessity of sustained efforts at both leadership and institutional levels to achieve a comprehensive and enduring fight against corruption.

These legal scholars align with other Zambians who have labeled these judgments from the state chambers as another form of corruption.

Rueben Lifuka, in particular, questioned the justification of such judgments during challenging economic times for ordinary people.

He emphasised the need for prioritising compensation for the many ordinary individuals who were wrongly arrested or mistreated by the police.

Lifuka, former Transparency International vice chairperson, urged the United Party for National Development (UPND) government to cease what he perceives as an abuse of public funds, reminding leaders of accountability and the expectations set by voters in the 2021 elections.

“The UPND government should stop this abuse of public funds. These leaders should not cry foul in future when they are held accountable for their actions. Come on UPND-this is not what people got up early in August 2021 to cast their votes for,” said Lifuka who also served as Transparency International Zambia Chapter president.

While recognising that the compensations ostensibly stem from "the misconduct and shameless behaviour" of public authorities during the previous Patriotic Front government, he highlighted that the current UPND government is exhibiting similar patterns, notably with numerous instances of heavy-handedness by the Zambia Police.

"It would have been appropriate for the UPND government to focus on reforming the public service as well as the judiciary, and reduce the potential for such huge compensation payments in future," he added.

The list of individuals who have been awarded compensation by the state includes politically connected figures like Transport Minister Frank Tayali.

Tayali, who faced a police officer pointing an AK-47 rifle at him during a UPND convoy offering solidarity support to Hichilema while in opposition in 2020, will be compensated K450,000 (approximately US$18,750 at the current exchange rate) for the trauma he suffered.

Other compensations include UPND Lusaka Province chairperson Obvious Mwaliteta and James Sichomba, each receiving K900,000 (US$37,500) as compensation for wrongful prosecution, and the family of late UPND supporter Mapenzi Chibulo receiving a sum of K3.5 million (US$146,000)