Nine Civil Society Organisations have petitioned Chief Justice Ireen Mambilima to cite Patriotic Front media director Sunday Chanda for contempt of court for commenting on a court case involving Henry Kapoko.
The CSOs which have been led by Alliance for Community Action (ACA) executive director Laura Miti, include Action Aid, Caritas Zambia, NGOCC, PANOS, Women for Change, ZCID and a governance activist, Pamela Chisanga.
In a letter dated August 08, 2018, addressed to the Chief Justice, the CSOs demanded that Chanda be cited for contempt and be disciplined accordingly just like Chikondi Foundation president John Mambno and SANEC executive director Gregory Chifire were summoned to court for commenting on a matter that was active in the courts of law involving Savanda Management Services and Stanbic Bank Limited.
In his statement, Chanda wondered why the Judiciary could import a Choma based magistrate Exornobert Zulu to Lusaka to make a determination over Kapoko’s case and charged that the whole process was ill-managed.
“The Judiciary here in Zambia has over the years performed its role with dignity and honour and the majority of men and women in this noble profession have unwaveringly dedicated themselves to discharging the sacred duty of justice. However, there are a few flies in the oil and of late there has been a sordid whiff emanating from some quarters of the judiciary that is nauseating the air and space of justice. Take the Choma based magistrates pitiful attempts to sully Dr Simon Miti who was a State witness in the case against Henry Kapoko and four others for instance. Dr Miti was made State Witness by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mr Chalwe Mchenga and continued to be so, even under Mr Mutembo Nchito. He was cross-examined by the cream of the country’s top drawer of legal brains and as key State Witness; he duly cooperated leading to the Courts securing a conviction in the matter,” stated Chanda.
“As a State Witness, Dr. Miti appeared before this magistrate and two or three others in this particular case and it’s strange that the magistrate didn’t at the time see the need for Dr Miti to be cross-examined on issues he’s never been charged for. It is unbelievably bizarre and outlandish that a State Witness should now be a subject of conviction by a magistrate. Dr Miti has never been cited nor has he ever appeared before court, so how did the Choma based magistrate judge him? What ever happened to the principle of natural justice? When has a judge ever directed who and should not be prosecuted? Something just doesn’t smell right! It stinks! It is a foul unwholesome embarrassment to the judiciary. Dr Miti was never suspended but was sent on leave with full benefits to allow for investigations; he cooperated and was back at work thereafter. The man has never been fired- neither for corruption nor any other offence for that matter, whether real or assumed.”
But in their letter of complaint, the nine CSOs found Chanda’s statement unpleasant and demeaning of the Judiciary and demanded that legal action be taken against him by way of citing him for contempt.
“Following the Supreme Court of Zambia’s recent citing of Chikondi Foundation president, Bishop John Mambo and Mr Gregory Chifire for contempt of court for commenting on a court judgment in the matter of Savenda Management Services Vs Stanbic Bank Limited, a matter that had been duly disposed of, we the undersigned civil society organisations and civic actors are of the view that a precedent has been set in which individuals who comment on matters that have been disposed of , or in court, will be cited for contempt of court,” stated the CSOs.
“While we, as CSOs, have always been of the view that once a case is disposed of, it is no longer subjudice and therefore those who comment on it are not in contempt of court, we are convinced that the direction that the highest court in the land has taken in the Savenda Management Services Vs, Stanbic Bank Limited case must be seen to be applied fairly, until clarity on what constitutes contempt of court is achieved. The statement we bring to your attention attacks on the judgment delivered on the Henry Kapoko case by Magistrate Zulu and the Magistrate himself. In the interest of fair play, we the undersigned civil society organisations do therefore request your office to investigate this statement for possible contempt of court by Sunday C Chanda, the media director of the Patriotic Front.”