Alliance for Community Action (ACA) executive director Laura Miti says she is surprised that the Law Association of Zambia has welcomed a punitive judgment slapped on Gregory Chifire for contempt of court.

Chifire, the director for Southern Africa Network Against Corruption (SANAC), was last week sentenced to six years imprisonment after he was cited for contempt of court for his remarks against  Chief Justice Irene Mambilima and the judiciary following the disposal of the Stanbic Bank Vs Savenda Case.

Chifire was charged with four counts of contempt of court until his sentencing last week which was presided over by deputy Chief Justice Marvin Mwanamwambwa, Supreme Court judges Evans Hamaundu, Mumba Malila and Rhoda Kaoma.

Following the judgment, the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ), through its president Eddie Mwitwa, welcomed the sentencing and explained that it would send a warning to Zambians who were in the habit of launching “unwarranted attacks” that tarnished the image of the judiciary.

But in an interview with News Diggers, Miti said it was worrisome that LAZ could support such a “harsh judgment” by the courts against Chifire.

“I was surprised at the position that LAZ took, especially that they did not first of all unpack the full judgment before the public. They just gave a wholesale prey for the judgment, which is not enough. And then also I am surprised that they would welcome such a punitive judgment when LAZ used to prioritise ensuring that people do not speak up around matters rather than looking at what is just,” Miti said. “I think it’s a bit worrying, I would have liked them to interrogate the questions, for example, of whether this law is a kind of law we want on our statutes or the whole procedure where the judges that are aggrieved are the ones who then sit to try and then also make judgment. This is something that I would have liked to hear from the Law Association of Zambia.” 

She said LAZ’s position on the censure of lawyers was equally “surprising”.

“I am also quite surprised that Law Association of Zambia president again seems very welcoming of the censure of this own lawyers, which was quite a scolding from the judge. I found that as well very surprising, it feels like a unionist is turning against his or her own members. I feel as though LAZ in this case has been a little short-sighted and is not asking the questions that we all need answered.I think overall, you need institutions to stand independently because when you begin to combine LAZ and the judiciary and LAZ begins to entirely lace itself in the judgment, it becomes a little bit worrying,” said Miti.