Deputy Chief Justice Marvin Mwanamwambwa is leading a bench of nine Supreme Court judges to hear the contempt cases against CiSCA chairperson Bishop John Mambo and SANAC executive director Gregory Chifire.
Below is a verbatim report of the first session:
(The first count is read and Chifire is asked to take plea…)
Chifire: At the moment, I will remain silent because I wish to seek the services of a counsel.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: Trial has not even started, how do you plead?
(Chifire pleads not guilty on all four counts…)
Judge Mwanamwambwa: This is the brief to this case. The whole of this saga emanates from a publication that appeared on Watchdog ‘Stanbic bribes Supreme Court judges with $190,000 each’. Thereafter, there were several other publications. The latest was one on Friday alleging that ‘Deputy Chief Justice and lawyer [Eric] Silwamba (and judge Evans Hamaundu) had a closed door meeting for three hours’…so we start with a response to the publications. So the first witness is honourable justice Albert Wood. Your full names? Your age?
Judge Wood: Abert Wood. I’m 58 years.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: Your occupation?
Judge Wood: Judge, Supreme court.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: How long have you been at the Supreme court?
Judge Wood: Since 2015.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: Can you tell the court how the Supreme Court operates?
Judge Wood: When I was first appointed, the procedure was as follows; we will get cause lists, both criminal and civil, which will be circulated to all the judges. When the date is set for discussion of cases, before discussion, the judges are expected to read all the records or appeal whether it’s their cases or not. On the date of the discussion, the judge who has been assigned for a particular case, leads the discussion. He or she explains what the case is all about. And then it is open to the 13 of us to discuss. After that, three judges form a panel. If after the appeal is heard, when something new has arisen, the case will be circulated to all us. We are really expected to read everything whether it’s your case or not because you are expected to contribute. After the judgement has been prepared, it’s circulated to the other two judges. If everything is agreed, it will be approved and signed by the three judges. If something has arisen, it needs looking at again, if there is a change in consensus, it is circulated back to all of us and looked at.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: Let’s move specifically to the issue of the appeal of Savenda Vs Stanbic Bank. What happened?
Judge Wood: What happened is that 13 of us sat and we all agreed that the appeal must be fair. It was the judgement of all 13 judges.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: We move on to the publication on Friday last week. Do you know Judge [Evans] Hamaundu?
Judge Wood: I have known judge Hamaundu since 1967, 1968. We were classmates in grade three or grade two.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: And you are all judges in Lusaka here?
Judge Wood: Yes.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: Where were you between Tuesday night last week and Friday evening?
Judge Wood: I was in Chisamba attending a World Bank Zambia workshop. And judge Hamaundu was seated directly opposite my table. We sat together. The workshop ended Friday afternoon around 16 hours.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: The allegations here are that Judge Hamaundu was held in a meeting concerning this case, for three hours. What’s your comment to that allegation?
Judge Wood: It’s laughable. Judge Hamaundu was just seated opposite me [in Chisamba]. [I left for home] shortly after we closed the seminar. I arrived home after 17:00 hours.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: There is a publication calling upon the Chief Justice [Ireen Mambilima] to suspend judges alleged to have received bribes in this matter. Under the Constitution, who is close to power to suspend a judge?
Judge Wood: According to Article 144 it’s the President.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: Does the CJ have power to suspend a judge?
Judge Wood: No she does not…
Chifire: (Interrupts)…I don’t have questions. But I wanted to ask on procedure. I’m not a court official. I had made an indication earlier that I wanted to seek services of counsel. Now I have seen [that] you have started calling witnesses and I don’t have counsel here. Does it mean this case is not related to the case why I’m here? If it does, then how are you going to disperse justice because perhaps my counsel will need to cross examine him (witness). So I feel that it will be difficult for me to feel [that] justice is been done when I had made an application for counsel yet you have proceeded to start calling witnesses. I don’t know, I need guidance. I don’t know court procedure. If it’s not touching my case then I’m okay with it your worship.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: Can you tell us when you were served the summons?
Chifire: Seven days ago.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: You were served on Tuesday not so?
Judge Mwanamwambwa: Why didn’t you get a lawyer?
Chifire: Getting services of a lawyer is not cheap. It’s expensive. It requires time and planning and hence I need time. Besides, it’s a Constitutional right your honour, which you are aware of.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: Answer the question! Why didn’t you retain a lawyer in seven days?
Chifire: It’s the issue of finances.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: Issue of finance? What do you mean?
Chifire: Lawyers are expensive your honour.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: So just because you can not retain a lawyer, court should not proceed?
Chifire: I didn’t say I’m not going to have a lawyer, I asked for time.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: Time for what? To raise money to pay a lawyer?
Chifire: Yes. Your honour, I know you don’t intend this to come out as an intimidation. But I know you are trying to save the time of the Supreme Court, you have too many cases. But I also wish to appeal to you for time so that at the end of the day, when the matter is disposed off, both ends will feel justice has been made. Under the Constitution of the Republic of Zambia, I’m entitled to have a lawyer. I hadn’t gotten a lawyer by that time because of finances. So I’m asking for time so that at the end of the day when we discuss this matter, I’m guided by counsel with the procedures.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: How much time do you need?
Chifire: Two weeks.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: But before we look at that matter, we have to finish this discussion. We are calling one [more] witness. Faides Hamaundu! (She takes the stand) Can you tell the court your full names?
Faides Hamaundu: Faides Hamaundu. I’m 60 years old. I’m a resident magistrate in the Subordinate court.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: Do you know Justice Evans Hamaundu?
Faides Hamaundu: Yes, he is my husband.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: You tell the court where your husband was on Tuesday evening and Friday last week.
Faides Hamaundu: On Tuesday evening to Friday last week, about 19:00 hours my husband went to Chisamba where judges were having a seminar.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: What time did he return?
Fides Hamaundu: My husband arrived in Lusaka about 19:00 hours.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: Madam, there was an allegation that your husband Evans Hamaundu met the Deputy Chief Justice in his chambers in the afternoon on Friday for three hours. What are your comments to that allegation?
Faides Hamaundu: My comments are that on Friday, my husband was not around. At 16:10 hours, he called me to inform me that he had started off and I waited for him. And at 18:07 hours, I called him because I got worried that he was not yet home. Then around 19:00 hours, that’s when he arrived and then he told me that on his way there was a lot of traffic and that he could not arrive on time.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: You said he was in Chisamba, the Watchdog says he was meeting the deputy CJ for three hours. Have you known your husband to be a witchdoctor who has been in Chisamba and with the deputy CJ for three hours simultaneously?
Faides Hamaundu: No my Lord. I have never known my husband to practice any witchcraft.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: Any questions to her before we consider your application? (question directed to Chifire)
Chifire: No my Lord. I’m lost at sea because I’m not related to the matter nor the matter of Watchdog, so I’m lost at sea.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: Indeed, indeed. So you have no questions in short? Thank you very much your worship you may stand down. At this stage we are going to consider the request, so we will have to rise for some five to 10 minutes then we will come back and make a ruling.
(After 10 minutes…)
Judge Mwanamwambwa: You will be granted an adjournment, not for two weeks but one month. Understand? This matter is hereby adjourned to Thursday 16th August, 2018 at 09:00 hours. You have sufficient time to engage any lawyers. In the mean time, all the proceedings have been verbally recorded by the court reporters here which will be made available to you. Should you fail to raise money to get a private lawyer, we wish to inform you that there is Legal Aid Board. Those will give you free legal representation and some normal charge, affordable charge. Do you know where they are?
Chifire: Yes my Lordship.
(Bishop Mambo is called to the stand and the charge is read to him. He pleads not guilty.)
Judge Mwanamwambwa: The first witness will be Mr John Peter Sangwa. Can you tell us your names?
Sangwa: My full names are John Peter Sangwa. I’m 52 years old. I reside in Lusaka West. I’m a legal practitioner.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: Are you aware that there was a court case between Savenda Limited and Stanbic Zambia Limited?
Sangwa:Yes I’m aware.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: You are aware that it started in the High Court?
Sangwa: Yes your honour.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: It went in favour of Savenda Limited?
Sangwa: Yes your honour.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: Can you confirm that Stanbic appealed and the case went (in favour) of Stanbic?
Sangwa: That’s correct.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: Next Savenda went to Supreme Court and the judgement was in favour of Stanbic?
Sangwa: That’s right.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: Would you confirm that you wrote a letter to the Chief Justice concerning this judgement?
Sangwa: Yes I did send a letter to the honourable Chief Justice in relation to the judgement by the Supreme Court. The letter is dated April 12, 2018. (Letter is produced and read out by Sangwa.)
Bishop Mambo: My Lord, am I allowed to say something? Because I’m avoiding being ambushed. I’m receiving these documents (Sangwa’s letter), apart from the Bible, I’m a layperson. I thought this appearing was for me to come and hear the Lordships give me what I was supposed to be coming to courts for and there after, I seek legal minds to help me. When I wrote the letter to Chief Justice, I was expecting a response [but] instead I got the summons. And respecting the court, I decided to avail myself and I thought I will be given liberty to engage counsel so that he/she can help in this matter. I’m not talking about money. You can see some of the VIP’s [here], they are my own brothers so they will contribute.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: You remember we asked you to plea the charge. You said you denied.
Bishop Mambo: My Lord I did say that.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: If you say you deny it then we have to hold a trial. What are you saying now?
Bishop Mambo: I was simply saying that, permit me with power that you have, to allow me time to engage a counsel.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: Why didn’t you say so after making a plea of not guilty?
Bishop Mambo: My Lord I’m not in church, I’m in court.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: Yes you are court. Why didn’t you say so before pleading not guilty?
Bishop Mambo: My Lord, I’m simply begging, I’m not here to argue with the court.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: We are trying to find out why you did not say so in the earlier stage.
Bishop Mambo: I’m simply saying…I doubt if you are a prophet, you would have read my mind.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: I don’t want to be a prophet I’m just keeping court procedure. The court procedure is this, once you plead not guilty, or once you are served with a charge, you will need a lawyer. Do you understand? When were you served with the summons? That was on Tuesday last week.
Bishop Mambo: Yes your honour. All I know myself is that I wrote a letter. I did not go to the press, I did not go anywhere. What I expected as a layperson is normal practice. Since Kaunda days, when you write a letter to an institutional office, you expect a response.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: Your main concern here is that in the mean time, you need a lawyer. Now we are saying, why didn’t you engage one?
Bishop Mambo: My Lord, the Deputy Chief Justice, I have a lot of respect for you. I have a lot of respect for you. What I didn’t know, and what you are trying to correct here, it should help me understand. But if I appear here, and I appear intimidated, it’s not going to react.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: Bishop, we just want to find out why you did not engage a lawyer for the past seven days?
Bishop Mambo: We are in a Christian nation. I’m saying [that] it’s not that it was difficult for me to get a lawyer, all I did was get to respect the court. That I will go and hear, thereafter I will appeal to you, the bench to give me time to find a lawyer. Being a layperson, I do not know whether this matter boarders on criminality or it’s Constitutional. So it’s after this now that I can take all the documents that I have for me to engage someone. I’m simply saying, in a Christian nation, a country that has a new Constitution, those are the rights that should be respected. So I’m just merely begging that if you allowed me, I’m not saying [that] I will not manage to find a lawyer.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: So in short you are applying for an adjournment for more time to engage a lawyer like Mr Chifire did?
Bishop Mambo: That is my appeal. It is a very simple appeal. Give me time so that I’m able to engage a lawyer. I have known what the charges are. If I engage someone, I will be able to explain why I’m engaging that person. I could have done it [earlier] but I did not know what I was coming for.
Judge Mwanamwambwa: …that document which has been given as part of his (Sangwa’s) evidence, which you did not object, now we are going to invite him to produce it. Thereafter, we will consider your application. Since the State Counsel read the letter, we invite him to read his article, thereafter we will consider your application.
Sangwa: (Reads his article…)
Judge Mwanamwambwa: …Bishop, we have now come to your application. Although you were expected to make that application immediately after pleading, we have considered it. We will grant an adjournment to enable [you] engage a lawyer. Bishop your matter is hereby adjourned to Friday August 17, 2018 at 09:00 hours.