By CHINTU MALAMBO
THE Supreme Court yesterday took Gregory Chifire’s lead lawyer Landilani Banda to task and told him to go back to school when he insisted on being guided on some provisions of the law.
The court said it felt insulted when lawyers representing Chifire insisted that they would not proceed until they were guided on whether or not their client was facing a criminal or civil contempt of court.
A panel of nine judges headed by Deputy Chief Justice Marvin Mwanamwambwa sat to hear why Chifire should not be cited for contempt of court.
Chifire’s lawyers Banda, McQueen Zaza and Grace Mwenda told they court they needed guidance on whether Chifire was facing civil or criminal contempt proceedings because according to them, pleading guilty or not guilty as Chifire was meant to do was unique in civil proceedings.
“We had sight of the court record in the previous proceedings and having not been there, we wish to be guided in certain aspects of the case,
“This court made a ruling in the last sitting to the effect that it was a civil contempt but when you look at the charge sheet and the counts, you will realise that Mr Chifire was made to plead guilty or not guilty on the four counts which is unique to civil proceedings,” Mr Zaza said.
At that point judges got upset and said “you are seeking guidance by trying to lecture us on that? What you are telling us is like an objection to these proceedings”
In this matter, Chifire in his capacity as Southern African Network Against Corruption (SANAC) director is charged with four counts of contempt of court after he allegedly wrote to Chief Justice, Irene Mambilima and published two articles on Zambian Watchdog online publication and one in the Mast newspaper concerning the outcome of the Savenda vs Stanbic Bank case.
The bench however, guided lawyers and said the charge was civil but had characteristics of a criminal contempt hence their client was made to take plea.
But Chifire’s lawyers were still hesitant to proceed and sought an adjournment to raise preliminary issues.
They also informed the court that a witness from the Mast newspaper was not before court hence they could not proceed with the matter.
Justice Mwanamwabwa rejected the request and said they were not compliant with the procedure to raise preliminary issues and that they had come to court ill prepared.
He cautioned the lawyers that the court would not allow them to use legal gymnastics to avoid proceeding with the matter.
“Your application to adjourn the matter is rejected. It’s quite obvious that you came here ill prepared. This court will not allow that, you come here ill prepared, expecting to survive on legal gymnastics,” Judge Mwanamwamba said.
And Justice Nigel Mutuna reprimanded Mr Banda by telling him that courts were not a circus and fertile ground for counsel.
He suggested that Mr Banda should go back to UNZA but Mr Banda responded saying No! No! I am a lecturer.
Mr Banda thereafter asked the court to allow them to put Chifire on the stand for examination in chief, saying however that their witness, a reporter from the Mast newspaper who was scheduled to testify on that day was not present.
In response, Judge Mutuna reminded Mr Banda that his client had already testified.
“Mr Banda you saw the summons from your client. As such when your client came, he stood in the dock took the oath and each count was put to him. When each count was put to him he explained his position,
“He answered all the counts and explained his position. We are only here for one count, count four which he said he needed to call a witness. But his evidence was given,” he said.
Judge Mwanamwamba then ordered him to a call a witness but he maintained that they did not have a witness.
However after some consultation, the judges finally allowed him to recall and examine Chifire.
During examination in chief, Chifire denied the charge in the first count alleging that he caused to be published an article on Zambian Watchdog headlined “Mambilima is the most corrupt Judge” saying he never gave any interview to anyone from Watchdog.
Meanwhile, Chifire said he should not be cited for contempt because he had never attacked the judiciary maliciously or in any way.
The matter comes up on November 28 for judgement.