Hansungule condemns Supreme Court for jailing Chifire

Professor Michelo Hansungule Chief Justice Irene Mambwilima should have engaged civil rights activist Gregory Chifire over a cup of tea instead of jailing him for merely having an opinion.

And Prof Hansungule says until the country is liberated, the UPND should forget about getting justice through the courts but instead use political routes to win their battles.

Meanwhile, Prof Hansungule says President Edgar Lungu is scared of any shadow that seems to eclipse his own.

In an article shared, Sunday, Prof Hansungule observed that November had been a bad month for Zambia’s democracy.

“This month has been extremely bad for Zambia’s nascent democracy. The past week has dealt severe blows to the bill of rights particularly freedom of expression and the right to information in Zambia. Police’s summoning of HH and slapping him with the illegal ‘warn and caution’ statement as well as the eerily unanimous Supreme Court judgment in Selected Judgment No. 47 of 2018 against Gregory Chifire blatantly undermined the little that had remained of the modicum of democracy and the rule of law in China’s African colony. At the High Court, HH and his running mate Vice President Godfrey Bwalya expectedly returned empty handed from Judge Chitabo Mwila’s court where they had gone knocking for the right to be heard after they were unceremoniously sent packing by an illegal ConCourt majority post the 2016 catastrophic sham elections. Earlier in the month, and quite unsurprising as well, the ConCourt tossed out two high profile parliamentary election appeals from petitions challenging the 2016 elections in Lusaka Central and Munali constituencies both in the capital city Lusaka,” Prof Hansungule observed.

Prof Hansungle stated that Chifire’s concerns should have been addressed through civil engagements instead of jailing him.

“The Supreme Court’s over 80 pages Chifire judgment raises serious questions about justice in Zambia…The broad issue I want to raise, however, is that if you look at most of the resources used in the judgment, they mostly all predate the modern era. Most of the materials were enacted long before the modern age of good governance. Writing the Chief Justice a letter in which her attention is drawn to a matter of public importance should be appreciated as part of good governance. This is consistent with the very first article 118 of the judicature chapter which provides that: ‘…. judicial authority of the Republic derives from the people of Zambia and shall be exercised in a just manner and such exercise shall promote accountability….’ This is meant to be departure from ancient history where judges were not considered human in the sense of ordinary human beings but men and women very close to God. Idea behind the statement that ‘judicial authority derives from the people of Zambia means Gregory Chifire and others are the source of judicial authority and when Chifire or someone else writes the Chief Justice, he must be appreciated because he is merely exercising article 118,” he stated.

“Instead of unleashing the law on him, the Chief Justice should have invited Chifire for discussion over a cup of tea in order to understand where he is coming from in any case he is ‘the people of Zambia’ in article 118. A person who writes even if accusations most of them unsubstantiated but who lists his or her name together with contact details deserves to be taken seriously and engaged rather than imprisoned. In modern times, people, using social media, for instance, write anything and do so anonymously using strange non existing names like ‘Satan’ or ‘Jesus’, ‘Trump’, etc. These are mostly cowards hence cannot reveal their true identity or list their contacts yet sometimes they make serious allegations. But Chifire is not in this class. He wants an engagement and he is covered by the constitution…As the Supreme Court itself says in the Chifire judgment, the Supreme Court or the judiciary is a unique. One issue which makes up this uniqueness is that its members are unelected and therefore would not fall under the same pedestal as politicians in terms of accountability threshold. However, article 18 of the constitution extends the same power in the hands of citizens to oversee the judiciary even if of unelected officials. Nevertheless, point is Supreme Court needed to have differently handled the Chifire issue than what has happened now.”

And Prof Hansungule stated that until the country is liberated, the UPND should forget about getting justice through the courts but instead use political routes to win their battles.

“Lastly, a small point about the strange rulings of the ConCourt in the Lusaka Central and Munali parliamentary constituencies both in Lusaka. Any serious observer of the Zambian political scene under president Edgar Lungu would no doubt have known that UPND victory at the High Court was short lived. First, UPND had criticized the ConCourt judges following the dramatic 2016 illegal decision by this court to unceremoniously terminate the opposition party’s petition and what do you now expect from them? You criticized the ConCourt following the 2016 election petition debacle and this is perfectly in order because it is your right, but do you really expect judges in this court to take the criticism magnanimously? Politically, it was unwise for UPND to go to the same court and to even expect a win given this background. UPND should try use the political route more than the legal route until the country has been liberated,” he stated.

Meanwhile, Prof Hansungule says President Edgar Lungu is scared of any shadow that seems to eclipse his own.

“Edgar would have none of the fact that the public demonstrations in both Kalulushi and Kitwe against news that Chinese had bought ZAFFICO were spontaneous and in any case occurred prior to HH’s media interviews. Because Edgar is in the president’s office illegally, not having convincingly won the 2016 elections, he is not in the office confidently. His behavior tells it all. He fears any shadow that tends to eclipse his,” stated Prof Hansungule.

“Otherwise freedom of expression is a basic right enshrined in the Zambian constitution and requiring Edgar to protect Hakainde’s freedom to speak freely and inform his followers of his views about major developments in the country. Just like Edgar Lungu, HH has a large following of supporters in Zambia. Though he purportedly lost the elections, HH got nearly the same number of voters as Edgar Lungu – over one million each and he has a duty to inform these on major developments in the country without the fear that police on Edgar Lungu’s instructions will summon him or slap him with a warning and a caution indicating he has potential for jail time.”

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