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Friday, 2 April 2010

"Stupid judgements by stupid judges"

Not my words, lest I be cited for contempt, but that of the human rights activist and his lawyer who were this week sentenced to three years in jail. We have previously touched  on the poverty of our laws as largely a problem thrust upon us by the Legislature. We have also noted that the Executive appears to use all the tools at its disposals to often intimidate citizens, as we saw in the Chansa Kabwela trial. But very few realise the Judiciary also develops and implement policy. This is especially the case under common law systems of justice, where judges have the ability to set precedent thereby defining more strongly how society should behave in the future. They can even overturn existing laws developed by the Executive e.g. through declaring them as unconstitutional. The precedent fact again makes this a much stronger threat as it becomes costly for future judges to overturn those judgements.  In fact that is why some people tend to be wary of the treason of judges.

It is therefore a dangerous situation when one of our finest judges, who has served in The Hague, starts sending people to jail for calling judges stupid because she thinks it sends the message to everyone. This is a dangerous precedent Justice Mambilima is setting. She wants to silence any criticism of judges. Under our laws judges are supposed to exercise judgement and consider the broad consequences of their actions. It would have been better to have given Mr Chilekwa a financial penalty than send him to a crowded jail with inhumane conditions. Especially over something that is clearly shared by many members of the public. Does Justice Mambilima or anyone else for that matter  really think that the Supreme Court and its activities can be described as  "good judgements by good judges"?  We already have the Executive prosecuting someone for calling the President a "fool" and chasing people over bounced cheques.  With the Deputy Chief Justice turning herself  into a draconian dispenser of injustice,  I can only imagine it wont be too long before the Speaker starts using all of his powers to inflict his own version of injustice - but I forget, Parliamentarians already do that through the laws they pass! When one looks at the three branches of government, it is difficult to see where hope can be found.

That is the serious part, but now for the hilarious transcript between Mr Chilekwa and the Supreme Court judges in February, as recorded by The Post. After losing his appeal in the Supreme Court, Mr Chilekwa sent three c letters to the Chief Justice Ernest Sakala leading to the contempt of court charge. The exchange below picks up the conversation between the Judges and Mr Chilekwa when he was summoned to explain himself :

Justice Mambilima: “Your letters are insulting to the entire court. We are just the face of the court. Matters are heard by a full bench of Supreme Court judges.”

Chilekwa: “If that's the case, I am even disappointed that the entire court could arrive at a decision to deprive the poor of the hard-earned cash.”

Justice Mwanamwambwa: “You are make insulting remarks. Is that how you apply for review? You don't throw insults at the court and making a seven-day ultimatum that 'I want my money'.”
Justice Mambilima: “In your mind, you thought you would threaten us to do a judgment in your favour? You think we are to serve MMD?”

Chilekwa: “The case of Frederick Chiluba, the President Rupiah Banda stopped the appeal.”

Justice Mambilima: “This case has nothing to do with the Chiluba case. Is that what made you think MMD could step on us? MMD is also subject to the law.”

Justice Mwanamwambwa: “Do you want us to show you judgments where we have ruled against MMD?”

Chilekwa: “It is very true that the letters were written to cry for our money not to insult the court.”

[Justice Mambilima and Justice Mwanamwambwa counseled Chilekwa on throwing insults at the court. They told him that decisions made in courts were based on the law and not personalities or who was related to who. Justice Mambilima asked Chilekwa to tell the court the relatives of some of the judges he claimed had been favoured. In response, Chilekwa said Prof Mvunga who is the brother-in-law of Chief Justice Ernest Sakala was in the centre of things.]

Chilekwa: “I am reliably informed that Professor Mvunga was in the centre of things and that there was a clique from one village that was hard to permeate. The people who come from one village are Chief Justice Ernest Sakala, Prof Mvunga, the President Rupiah Banda and the Deputy Chief Justice Ireen Mambilima. All those outside that circle cannot be heard.”

Justice Mambilima: “Your lawyer, Mr. Sambo is the one who gave you this information?”

Chilekwa: “Yes, and in fact that judge Marvin Mwanamwambwa is too much on the side of corruption while judge Chibomba is on the side of friends. In fact, there is a CD where more bad things were said. If you could let me come and play the CD.”

Justice Mambilima :  "There was no need to play the CD, the Court will rely on your evidence".

Chilekwa: “If that's the case, I am worried because if you listen to the CD, something will click in your spirits.”

Justice Mambilima: “We are looking at the charge of contempt, this is not a shopping forum.”

Chilekwa: “In fact, my lords and my lady, I want you to put it on record that at no occasion did I meet the counsel and he said good things. In fact, he does not encourage other clients to bring matters to court because the court has the foolishness of twisting things. He was interviewed for the position of High Court judge but was found to be a lame duck because he was a Jehovah's Witness. Judge Zikonda and Prof Mvunga are friends, both lecturers at the University of Zambia. Prof Mvunga is the brother-in-law to the Chief Justice.”

Justice Mwanamwambwa: “When will you stop insulting people?”

Justice Mambilima: “Does the Professor win all the cases before the courts? The Professor has lost a lot of cases before this court. If your lawyer had explained to you the principles of the law, you would have been magnanimous enough to accept the judgment. The law is the law, it does not look at whether or not you are an orphan. You say you are going to be a lawyer?”

Chilekwa: “Yes, I am going to be a lawyer.” 
Justice Mambilima: “Cases are not decided by who comes from where.”

Chilekwa: “My lawyer told me all this and whatever my lawyer told me was gospel truth. When I wrote the letters, I had the brains. After writing the two letters, you asked my lawyer to talk to me. He added fuel by saying: 'Stupid judgment by stupid judges'. Judge Mwanamwambwa is too much on the side of corruption and could not withstand the power of the mighty Professor.”

Justice Mwanamwambwa: “You are extremely ignorant on how the Supreme Court works.” 
[Chilekwa admitted being ignorant and asked the court to change.]

Justice Mwanamwambwa: “We will not change things to suit you. Do not lecture to us how we should conduct business. What you wrote were submissions and there is a difference between submissions and evidence.”

[Justice Mwanamwmbwa said this after Chilekwa was told to submit the document he had come with to court and then give his evidence. Chilekwa wanted to read the document in court saying it was his evidence but was told to submit it to court as it would be considered as his submissions. At this point, the court said that was all from Chilekwa because the more he talked the more insults he hurled at the court and he would implicate more people.]


  1. The judges in the Supreme Court of Zambia must feel ashamed for passing such excessive, vindictive punishment on Mr Chilekwa and his lawyer for contmpt. A quick search of the law on contempt in the UK revealed that the maximum sentence for contempt is one month or a fine of £2,500. I for one agree with your headline "Stupid judgements by stupid judges". These judges must grow up and not bring contempt on themselves. Mr Chilekwa and his lawyer should appeal for Presidential pardon. MelUK

  2. The jailing of the two is unwarranted. Firstly, the Supreme Court of Zambia is not short of judges. How can the accused judges STILL sit and pass judgement? Why didn't they recuse themselves from the bench and let the other four judges who were not mentioned deal with Chilekwa's case? These judges have gone too far. Isn't there a precedent of corruption when Chief Justice Mathews Ngulube was forced to resign because of corruption? Chielkwa did not commit any crime at all, "it's a stupid judgement by STUPID JUDGES", that's the reason.


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