Kitwe High Court judge Catherine Makungu on Tuesday adjourned the case in which UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema is charged with contempt of court following a proposal by acting Chief Justice Lombe Chibesakunda’s lawyers that the case be settled ex curia (out of court).
Meanwhile the court ruled that Chibesakunda’s lawyers breached rules of the court and ordered them to withdraw from prosecuting Hichilema.
This is in a case where Justice Lombe Chibesakunda has filed for contempt proceedings claiming that the UPND leader commented on a matter, which was still active in court.
Chibesakunda applied for contempt proceedings, saying Hichilema was quoted in the Daily Nation newspaper of June 12 this year under the headline, ‘PF ministers courting UPND’, in which he (Hichilema) allegedly made direct reference to her position and tenure of office as acting Chief Justice.
In most civilised countries and where judges are educated and independent minded, such comments does not constitute contempt as they cannot be influenced by comments in the media. If you want to have an idea, just Google how the media, politicians and even comedians commented on Oscar Pistorious’ case in South Africa but no one was arrested for contempt.
Commenting on a case in court is only considered contempt where a judge is unsure of himself and is susceptible to influence by any silly comment.
But Hichilema’s lawyer, Milner Katolo, said the defence was not against ex curia settlement but the conflict of interest on the part of the lawyers representing justice Chibesakunda.
Katolo said there was an infringement on the Legal Practitioners’ Practice Rules and the issues raised were presented to the court.
He said the Legal Practitioners’ Practice Rules made it mandatory for any counsel who finds himself in a position of conflict to withdraw from the record.
Ruling on the matter, judge Catherine Makungu said she had considered the application and the issue of conflict and breach of Legal Practitioners’ Practice Rules.
“I will firstly tackle the issue of the breach of the practitioners practice rules. In my view, Chilupe and Permanent Chambers have infringed rules number 33 and 34 of Statutory Instrument number 51 of 2002. However, this default is not fatal to the application for contempt because it is curable by the law firm withdrawing from representing the second defendant and allowing the 16 other law firms representing the second defendant to take over the prosecution of the application,” she said.
Judge Makungu directed that Chilupe and Permanent Chambers file the necessary application to withdraw from the record in accordance with the laid down procedure within seven days.
“Failure to which, this application will remain defective and may order that LAZ takes disciplinary action against the firm,” said judge Makungu in her ruling and adjourned the matter to December 1 for hearing of the contempt application.