Southern Africa Network Against Corruption (SANAC) Executive Director, Gregory Chifire has argued ahead of his contempt of court judgement case scheduled for November 28 that the Supreme Court has no right to cite him over a matter that was long concluded.
Chifire filed his submission in the Supreme Court stating that the moment the appeal judgment was rendered in the case of Savenda vs Stanbic bank, the Supreme Court became functus officio (cannot judge on the same matter) .
“The moment judgment is delivered the court becomes functus officio. Therefore, it doesn’t have power to move itself to commence proceedings of this nature against the alleged contemnor,” Chifire stated.
In this matter, the Supreme Court cited Mr Chifire with four counts of contempt of court after he allegedly wrote to the Chief Justice and also caused to be published, matters concerning the case of Savenda vs Stanbic bank.
In his submission, Chifire stated that the proceedings of Supreme Court justices comprising Deputy Chief Justice Marvin Mwanamwambwa, who sat with judges Gregory Phiri, Elizabeth Muyovwe, Mumba Malila, Evans Hamaundu, Roydah Kaoma, Michael Musonda, Jane Kabuka, and Nigel Mutuna against him ought to be declared a nullity.
Chifire last month pleaded not guilty to the four counts of contempt and denied that the letter he authored, which was sent to the Chief Justice Irene Mambalima and the chairperson of the Judicial Complaints Commission, contained contemptuous words.
He also denied being behind the articles published by the Zambian Watchdog. On the article that was published by The Mast in which he contended that the “Judiciary [was] one of the most corrupt institutions in Zambia,” Chifire said what he said was not intended to demean the integrity of the judiciary.
The Supreme Court set November 28 for judgment. According to submissions filed in court ahead of the judgment,
Chifire submitted that the Supreme Court had no powers to preside on its own motion.
He said courts are moved by litigants and not on their own motion.
“This is not to say that there are no instances where courts can move themselves. We are alive to the fact that courts may move themselves in contempt of court emanating from proceedings that are active or on going before them. However, court do not have power to move on their own motion in matters that are not before them or concluded as the case may be. They have to wait for the complainant to move them.” he stated.
He added that in his case, the court moved on its own motion and assumed the role of a complainant and adjudicator in its own case.
Chifire further stated that maintaining the authority and independence of the court did not give courts the power to commence contempt proceedings to shut up critics of the judiciary.
During trial, Chifire pleaded not guilty to all counts and denied that the letter or the articles he allegedly caused to be published contained any contemptuous words.