YANDE SYAMPEYO, Lusaka
ON JANUARY 9, 2004, when Eddie Kalela Mwitwa was being admitted to the Bar, he was inspired by the eloquent and passionate speech delivered by then Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) president Micheal Musonda.
It was that speech which sparked in Eddie a desire to become LAZ president someday.
“He spoke so eloquently and passionately and that is one thing that has always attracted me to the practice of the law. The way lawyers speak, the way they dress and the confidence they exude when they speak,” Eddie says.
And 14 years later, Eddie’s vision has materialised. He was elected LAZ president unopposed and installed two weeks ago, taking over from his predecessor Linda Kasonde.
However, Eddie is not a new figure in the LAZ circles as he was first elected to the LAZ council in 2015, as honourary secretary taking over from Likando Kalaluka, who was appointed Attorney General.
In 2016, Eddie was elected as vice-president of LAZ, a position he held until his elevation.
“I bring to the table some experience which I believe is adequate for the job,” he says.
Eddie has already set the ball rolling in an effort to address cross-cutting issues affecting both the association and the country as a whole.
He says his approach to national issues will be informed by lessons of the previous council, to which he belonged.
Eddie says his administration will seek to be objective and engage Government, particularly, the executive arm.
He says there is so much polarisation politically, hence whenever LAZ voices out on national issues, it is either seen as pro-government or against it.
He only wants Government to keep its doors open.
He will take interest in the welfare of its members, promoting and protecting the rule of law, constitutionalism, and human rights as well as help the public generally in matters of law.
Eddie says the country has seen an exponential growth in the membership of LAZ which calls for a strategic plan on the absorption of new entrants in the profession.
He notes that jobs are becoming scarce in the legal profession and he wants to inspire legal changes to optimise the environment.
Three hundred and twelve new lawyers have just been added to the practising ones.
He says the increased numbers in the profession also calls for vigilance to ensure standards and ethics are upheld.
Eddie said the legal profession should strive to observe, promote and protect the rule of law and constitutionalism.
He says the work of lawyers is critical to the growth of society be it economically and/ or social change.
He does not believe that lawyers are failed deliberately at the Zambia Institute of Advanced Legal Education (ZIALE).
He states that there is a critical shortage of practising lawyers, hence it would be illogical for the legal institution to fail lawyers who deserve to pass and qualify those that deserve to fail.
Given the current population estimated at 15 million, Eddie sets the ratio at one lawyer to 10,000 people.
Most of the people who lack access to legal representation are those along the line of rail.
Eddie also urges lawyers to offer free legal services, especially in criminal cases, as most Zambians cannot afford to hire private lawyers.
He also implores Government to consider increasing its funding to the Legal Aid Board to absorb more lawyers to offer legal services to the public.
And Eddie feels the current legal fees by lawyers are reasonable as they are regulated by the law.
He says the current statutory fees are based on the economic fundamentals or indicators of 2011.
Eddie advises lawyers to continuously develop their skills to compete favourably internally and externally. He says lawyers also need to expand the scope of work into sectors which are yet to be exploited such as environmental law.
Explorations of oil and gas present new opportunities for lawyers to consider their practice.
On corruption, the LAZ president says it cannot be denied that there is corruption in the judiciary as the vice is everywhere. He wants those with information to report to authorities.
“You must remember that the judiciary is not just judges; it includes sweepers, registry staff and anybody that works in the judiciary,” Eddie says.
Eddie says he drew positive lessons from being the first male vice-president to serve under a woman, Ms Kasonde.
He hails Ms Kasonde for her courage, commitment, selflessness and visionary leadership.
Eddie says Ms Kasonde gave up her practice just to being LAZ president as the demands of the office are increasingly high.
His greatest achievement so far is being elected LAZ president as it is a source of pride and honour.
Born of Doreen Mwansa Lumbwe and Frank Terry Chola Mwitwa, in Mufulira in 1977, his dream was to become a banker like his father, until he realised he was not competent at mathematics.
“I started falling in love with history and religious education and I discovered I was quite competent and flowed quite easily in those subjects,” he says.
Inspired by the likes of former President Levy Mwanawasa, Eric Silwamba and Vincent Malambo, Eddie was educated at Mufulira Primary School, Chaisa, Lotus, Mumbwa and Kaonga Basic and completed his secondary at Matero Boys, a school which he says helped to shape his leadership potential.
In 1997, he enrolled at the University of Zambia (UNZA) School of Humanities and Social Sciences and graduated with a merit in the school of law.
After being admitted to the Bar in 2004, he was engaged by the Zambia National Service (ZNS) as legal officer for a year and was later appointed State Advocate in the Ministry of Justice under Attorney General’s chambers.
Eddie is currently a managing partner of Mwenye and Mwitwa advocates and his partners include former Solicitor General Musa Mwenye (SC), Mwape Bwalya and Misozi Masengu.
The LAZ president, who is a born again Christian and worships at Miracle Family Life Church, is married to Mulenga Lusafya, a human resource officer at Cavmont Bank and the couple has three children namely, Malumbo, Kalela and Katashya.
It is Eddie’s hope that his administration, once it leaves office, will be remembered for the right reasons.