We sympathise with lawyer John Sangwa that he has been barred from appearing before any court in Zambia except as an accused person and the fact that he may face contempt of court proceedings.
But we warned Sangwa just slightly over a year ago that supporting wrong things just because they favour you or your bank account is wrong. Ethical people support principles not individuals.
Some people might have forgotten. Sometime in 2018, the Supreme Court in one of the most bizarre and unjust actions in legal history charged Bishop John Mambo, journalist Derick Sinjela and political activist Gregory Chifire for contempt of court. The three had questioned a decision of the Supreme Court regarding Stanbic Bank v Savenda in which judges are said to have received huge kickbacks to rule in favour of Stanbic Through its negligence, Stanbic had reported Savenda to the Credit Reference Bureau, a move that led to Savenda losing business and contracts. The High Court found Stanbic guilty and ordered the bank to compensate Savenda. But the higher courts reversed the judgment of the High Court.
This led to serious doubts and suspicions by members of the public who were not satisfied with the decision of the Supreme court, especially that the High Court judgment was well reasoned.
Members of the public demanded an investigation into allegations of judicial impropriety specifically that dirty money could have exchanged hands. The Supreme Court reacted with jail sentences for anyone who questioned this appearance of corruption. The judges, led by now retired deputy Chief Justice Marvin Mwanamwambwa, Gregory Phiri, Elizabeth Muyomve, Mumba Malila, Evans Hamaundu, Roydah Kaoma, Michael Musonda, Jane Kabuka, Michael Musonda and Nigel Mutuna acted as complainants, witness, assessors, jury, interpreters, arresting officers and judges. This was the most absurd and embarrassing trial to be presided by a normal person.
But lo and behold and from nowhere, lawyer John Sangwa offered himself as star witness for the Kangaroo Court. Sangwa worked day and night to make sure that Bishop Mambo, Sinjela and Chifire are jailed simply for commenting on a case that was already out of the court’s hands. Journalist Sinjela was jailed. Chifire fled and is still living in exile with a long jail sentence on his head. Bishop Mambo was humiliated and made to pay fines and remains with a criminal record. The Supreme court with the support of Sangwa made it a criminal offence for any person to question a decision of the court, no matter how absurd or unconscionable it is. Today, Sangwa finds himself in the shoes of Bishop Mambo, Sinjela and Chifire. How is he going to defend himself? That it is okay to question a decision of the Constitutional Court but not that of the Supreme Court?
Lawyers have no special rights above other citizens when it comes to freedom of speech. What is right for Sangwa should be right for Sinjela also. People should learn that creating laws just to ‘fix’ a particular individual can and does backfire most of the times. Who doesn’t remember how late presidents Fredrick Chiluba and Michalel Sata changed the law on motor vehicle theft to make it unbailable just to deal with one enemy of theirs. Didn’t Michael Sata later spend days in police custody on allegations of motor vehicle theft simple because the charge was non bailable?
Now Sangwa finds himself a victim of the same monster he created just a few months ago.
But unlike Sangwa who wanted Bishop Mambo to rot in Jail, Bishop Mambo is supporting Sangwa this time around. Thank God he is not in jail otherwise Sangwa would not have his support.
Bishop Mambo says “CiSCA stands in solidarity with Mr Sangwa. We encourage him to remain strong during this time of persecution. He has chosen to defend the Constitution, at the cost of denting his career as a legal practitioner.”
We hope Sangwa has finally learnt something about life.