Anticorruption activist Gregory Chifire has told the Supreme Court that its mandate expired (functus officio) the moment the appeal judgment was rendered in the Savenda Management Services Limited vs Stanbic Bank case.
Chifire therefore says the contempt of court charged ‘inflicted’ on him must be declared null. Chifire’s arguments are contained in the submissions he filed ahead of his judgment in a case he was charged with contempt of court by nine Kangaroos abusing the judiciary.
In short, he told the judges that the current sittings are illegal, unconstitutional and an abuse of power and the judiciary.
The Kangaroos sitting as Supreme Court judges in their case where they are prosecutors, judges, witnesses and judges are Deputy Chief Justice Marvin Mwanamwambwa, Gregory Phiri, Elizabeth Muyovwe, Mumba Malila, Evans Hamaundu, Roydah Kaoma, Michael Musonda, Jane Kabuka, and Nigel Mutuna
Chifire last month pleaded not guilty to the four counts of contempt and denied that the letter he authored, which was sent to the Chief Justice Irene Mambalima and the chairperson of the Judicial Complaints Commission, contained contemptuous words.
He also denied being behind the articles published by Zambian Watchdog. On the article that was published by The Mast in which he contended that the “Judiciary [was] one of the most corrupt in Zambia,” Chifire said what he said was not intended to demean the integrity of the judiciary.
The Supreme Court set November 28 for judgment. According to submissions filed in court ahead of the judgment, Chifire submitted that the Supreme Court has no powers to move on its own motion to summon him to show cause as to why he was not to be cited for contempt. He argued that the matter that necessitated the contempt proceedings against him was fully determined on appeal and judgment delivered by the same court.
“The moment judgment is delivered the court becomes functus officio. Therefore, it doesn’t have power to move itself to commence proceedings of this nature against the alleged contemnor,” Chifire stated.
He added that courts are moved by litigants and not on their own motion.
“This is not to say that there are no instances where courts can move themselves. We are alive to the fact that courts may move themselves in contempt of court emanating from proceedings that are active or on going before them. However, court do not have power to move on their own motion in matters that are not before them or concluded as the case may be,” Chifire stated. ” They have to wait for the plaintiff complaint to move them.”
He added that in the instance case, the court moved on its own motion and assumed the role of a complaint and adjudicator in its own case.
“This we submit is procedurally improper and will create a wrong precedent. And further based on this submission, we argue that the court had no jurisdiction to commence and try this matter in this manner it has done so, therefore, the proceedings ought to be declared a nullity,” Chifire submitted.
He submitted that the court sitting in the position of prosecutor and adjudicator was in clear violation of the principles of natural justice, adding that the Supreme Court like any other court in Zambia was bound by the rules of natural justice and the principle of justice was that ‘no man should be a judge in his own cause’.
Chifire also submitted that the evidence that was led by the witnesses against him was on issues that happened after he was charged and as such could not be used to prosecute or find him guilty of the charge.
Chifire stated that maintaining the authority and independence of the court did not give courts the power to commence contempt proceedings to shut up critics of the judiciary.
ZWD COMMENT: Chifire knows very well that he is challenging bad people who have no regard for the law when it involves themselves. He knows very well that they will send him to jail not because he is guilty but because they are trying to hide their guilty. He knows that no matter what he says even if he is right, the judges will rule in their own favour. He knows they are doing this to protect themselves or what they believe is their integrity when the whole country knows that they have lost it. But Chifire is challenging them, why? Our view is that he is making a statement. He is telling the judges that the judiciary is not their inheritance. He is telling them that being a judge does not put them above the law. He is reminding them that they are subject to the law.
Chifire is prepared to be jailed for what is right; for his freedom of speech, for fighting corruption in the judiciary. We admire him. He is certainly not slumbering on his rights. Whatever the judges do, Chifire will not go to prison as a guilty criminal. He will go to jail as a victor, a person who stood up and faced the criminals sitting as judges. A kind of martyr. Sending Chifire to jail will not cleanse the corruption in the judiciary. It will not erase the national perception that the current judiciary is rotten from the top. It will instead affix that perception in the national mind.