Of unjust laws and law makers
Published On August 13, 2022 » 1058 Views» By Times Reporter » Features
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All laws are illegal – Bob Marley.
Some scholars define law as a set of rules that are created and are enforceable by social or governmental institutions to regulate behaviour.
Quite a good definition and one would expect no complications with such a clear guideline to police society.
However, the mere definition of law is steeped in Eurocentrism hailing back to colonialism that ushered in the English law in the first place anchoring it on us lesser mortals.
In short, the English law that we inherited as a former British colony is part of a broader cultural endeavour that attempts to promote European values and interests at the expense of all others.
Like other foreign practices including Western religions like Christianity, this is problematic from the start explaining why there are conflicts in determining what criteria we should use to judge someone.
Zambia, like many other African countries that inherited the English law should have nativized it to suit our society.
But being a monkey see, monkey do society, we have not done this but instead, we pride ourselves for inheriting the English Law wart and all.
We should first understand that the human enterprise is envisioned and structured in differing ways calling for a myriad of laws that serve the society where they are implemented.
Why then are we still clinging to the English law with its attendant Victorian norms and archaic terms from a dead language like Latin.
For Africa, that has a complete different set of standards to determine what is right and wrong, this is a source of complications that refuse to die.
Compared to Africa, the western culture is highly materialistic, competitive, individualistic, narcissistic and place great emphasis on the consumption of natural resources and material goods.
Despite extending its legal tradition to other countries especially, its former colonies, the English law is and will remain Western.
In colonial Zambia, the law was used as a powerful tool to oppress the natives.
Stupid laws like trespass and vagrancy were put to good use to keep the African in his place.
The pass law that required Africans to produce a pass for any movement in designated areas is a classic example of how unjust laws can be used as a tool of oppression.
In South Africa, the cornerstone of the apartheid system was the law, usually crafted to disadvantage non-whites especially blacks.
The apartheid system produced a cocktail of laws to enforce the segregative scheme.
For example, the Population Registration
Act No 30 of 1950 required people to be identified and registered from birth as one of the four distinct racial groups: white, coloured, Bantu (Black African), and other.
It was one of the pillars of apartheid.
Then there was the immorality Act that criminalised racially mixed couples suspected of being in relationships.
After attainment of independence by many African countries, one would have expected radical changes in the English law that had been used to perpetuate colonialism.
However, it was not to be, since another class of citizens merely took the position of the departing white man.
The Africa middle class that had tapped into the western fountains became a central protagonist in the development discourse.
These included the ruling class, academicians and the business community noticeably above the commoners.
In relation to the law, members of this class could afford legal representation in the courts of law something denied to the masses.
Despite access to justice for all citizens being the cornerstone of democracy, in many African countries, poor people face higher hurdles to access justice.
What is worse, access is most severely restricted for some of Africa’s most vulnerable citizens-the uneducated, rural residents, and especially people living in poverty.
There is great need to change the legal system to empower the marginalised in society.
The poor should access the legal system and advance their rights and interests as citizens.
To achieve this, there is need for massive surgery to the English law to make it relevant to our society instead of perpetuating legal norms that are being questioned even in the countries of their origin.

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