Supreme Court judges should stop embarrassing the country

Supreme Court judges should stop embarrassing the country

We have said it before and we will continue saying that the case in which the Supreme Court has charged Bishop John Mambo and Gregory Chifire with contempt of court is a fraud, an abuse of the court and lacks common sense. The two have been charged for commenting on a case that was already disposed of by the courts.

The complainants in the case are the Supreme Court judges, the prosecutors are the same Supreme Court judges. The witnesses are the same Supreme Court judges and their spouses and lawyers accused of bribing the same judges. The persons accused of receiving bribes in the Savenda v Stanbic bank are the same Supreme Court judges. This is not how a trial should be conducted.

Such a set up cannot lead to a fair trial.

A fair trial is important for people to respect the outcome of a trial. Without a fair trial, whatever judgement that is issued at the end is unacceptable. And in this case, the victims have nowhere to appeal to since this is supposed to be the last court of appeal and by extension, the apex of justice and free trial.

In 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which provides that, every human being is entitled to  a fair and public hearing by an independent and IMPARTIAL tribunal, in the determination of his legal rights and obligation and of any criminal charges against him.

Similarly, Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Zambia is also a member and signatory says that “Everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and IMPARTIAL tribunal (COURT).

Maybe our supreme court judges can learn something from the Supreme Court of India which, admirably ruled in the case of Zahira Habibullah Sheikh & Anr vs State of Gujarat that, “fair trial obviously would mean a trial before an impartial Judge, a fair prosecutor and atmosphere of judicial calm. Fair trial means a trial in which bias or prejudice for or against the accused, the witnesses, or the cause which is being tried is eliminated.”

What is an impartial judge?

The Cambridge dictionary of English defines ‘impartial’ as ‘not supporting any of the sides involved in an argument’. Now, can a person who is part of the dispute be impartial? Can a person accused of receiving bribes be the same person to judge the accuser?

The Collins dictionary explains as follows: ‘Someone who is impartial is not directly involved in a particular situation, and is therefore able to give a fair opinion or decision about it.’

From the way the lead prosecutor judge Mwanamwamba was conducting himself in the Bishop Mambo case, can it be said that there was nether bias nor prejudice? Was he a fair prosecutor? Can a prosecutor with personal interest in the matter and so visibly angry as Mwanamwamba was create an atmosphere of judicial calm?

And like the hypocrites they are, they adjourned the hearing to ‘allow’ the accused to scout for legal representation. Obviously, they couldn’t consult any one before adjourning because in this kangaroo court, the accusers are the judges, they are the witnesses and the prosecutors.

 

Now, which lawyer is going to agree to represent Bishop Mambo and Chifire knowing very well that lawyers are officers of the courts and must obey the judges? Which lawyer is going to accept to cross examine and even call judges Woods a liar when that lawyer knows that the next day Judge Wood will be presiding over his other matter? This is ridiculous. Can a lawyer agree to represent Bishop Mambo when he knows that the Chief Justice and deputy chief Justice are personally involved in that matter and desire a particular outcome and the deputy chief justice is the prosecutor and main judge? What a circus. A circus led by supposed learned but clearly foolish old men.

 

This case is embarrassing to the judiciary, the Zambian government and even law students.  We already explained why Deputy Chief Justice Marvin Mwanamwambwa is personally prosecuting this case. He is protecting his girlfriend. But we find this to be very petty for a man of his age and standing in society. This is the man who has never been really scrutinised in public. It would now appear that those who promote judges have good reasons for maintaining him as deputy not Chief Justice. With that level of pettiness and lack of remorse, surely having such a person as chief justice will be against national interest.

 

By harassing Bishop Mambo and Chifire in this hopeless case, the Supreme Court is creating a precedence that no one should ever question a court judgement in Zambia. What this case means is that, if anyone comments on a judgment even the one issued 10 years ago, the court can reconvene to punish the person who questions it. It’s draconian and retrogressive in this age of enlightment. It is unacceptable. It must be rejected.

 

So since this case has started in the Supreme Court, a court of appeal, when Bjshop Mambo and Chifire are found guilty since clearly there is no room for justice in the case, where are they going to appeal to, to a magistrate? Seriously our Supreme court judges have demonstrated lack of wisdom in this case. Of course, we are aware that some judges do not agree but Mwanamwamba and Irene Mambilima are pushing them. This is where judges of integrity should stand up and be counted or be judged together.

 

What is so important about Bishop Mambo’s letter to Mambilima that requires the sitting on nine judges when the main matter was heard by only three judges? Even the presidential petition was heard by five judges.  Something is really fishy here.

 

The supreme court must stop embarrassing themselves and instead set up a tribunal to probe what really happened in the Stanbic v Savenda case. If they are innocent, why are they afraid of a tribunal? What are they hiding? The idea that a tribunal will inconvenience people is not even an argument. The tribunal will set this matter to rest. If they are innocent, we believe there are legal procedures to address the grievances.

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