Bishop Mambo, Cifire plead not guilty to contempt in Savenda Vs Stanbic case

By Staff Reporter

 

CHIKONDI Trust Foundation chairperson Bishop John Mambo and activist Gregory Cifire yesterday appeared before the Supreme Court full bench and pleaded not guilty to contempt charges in a case of Savenda vs Stanbic Bank.

Bishop Mambo was summoned by the court for contempt charges following a letter he wrote to Chief Justice Ireen Mambilima over the Supreme Court judgment that was passed in favour of Stanbic Bank.

In his letter, Bishop Mambo had stated that; “the legal suit against the bank by Savenda, though given a favourable decision at the lower court, was suspiciously overturned by the higher court on appeal. Most judges seem to be more interested in achieving personal ambitions at the expense of justice for all and equality before the law.”

Bishop Mambo, who appeared before 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, denied the charge.

And in separate charges, Cifire also pleaded not guilty to four counts of contempt of court.

In count one, Cifire is accused of causing to be published an article on the Zambian Watchdog headlined ‘Mambilima is the most corrupt judge’ in which he alleged that justice Mambilima was presiding over the most corrupt judiciary in the history of post independent Zambia.

He had also alleged that justice Mambilima was ignoring corruption evidence against judges who presided over the Savenda vs Stanbic Bank case. And after denying the charges, Cifire asked for time to engage a lawyer.

The background to this case was that Savenda had sued the bank and was claiming K192.5 million in damages for loss of business as a result of being registered as a bad debtor with the Credit Reference Bureau, which was decided in its favour by the Lusaka High Court but Stanbic Bank appealed to the Court of Appeal who overturned the earlier verdict and determined the case in the bank’s favour.

Being dissatisfied with Court of Appeal decision, Savenda appealed to the Supreme Court who upheld the lower court’s decision.

After Cifire took his pleas, Justice Mwanamwambwa called the first witness, Supreme Court judge Albert Wood who testified on the procedure that the court follows when handling appeals.

Judge Wood said after a cause list is issued, all the judges of the Supreme Court hold meetings to contribute on all appeal cases and judgments meaning that Supreme Court judgments have an input from all the judges.

On allegations published by the Watchdog that judge Hamaundu held a crisis management meeting with Justice Mwanamwambwa, judge Wood said it was not true because the time the deputy chief justice and judge Hamaundu were alleged to have met, he was with him in Chisamba attending a World Bank workshop until late on Friday. Judge Hamaundu’s wife, Faides, also testified that her husband was out of town on the day attending a workshop for judges.

She said her husband was not a witch to be in two places at the same time.

And State Counsel John Sangwa also testified in the matter and produced a letter he wrote in April commending the Supreme Court over the same judgment in issue.

He, however, expressed shock over the reports that judges who handled the Savenda vs Stanbic appeal were corrupt because his analysis of the judgment was that it was good as it addressed a lot of issues. Sangwa said he had been following the case because he wanted to see how the Supreme Court was going to handle the matter as it was the first judgment after the amended Constitution.

Meanwhile, Bishop Mambo told the court that going by Sangwa’s letter, his case was going to be an easy one as some of the issues he raised had been analysed by the State Counsel. The bishop also said he was an ambassador of Christ, adding that Zambia being a Christian nation, people were bound to make mistakes and must be forgiven and reprimanded.

He also said as a lay person, unlike Sangwa, who is a constitutional lawyer who he has so much respect for, he would have not known that by mere writing of a letter to the Chief Justice, which he did not give to the press, would amount to contempt of court. Justice Mwanamwambwa advised Bishop Mambo not to start giving a defence but just stick to his application for time to engage a lawyer.

The court adjourned the cases in order to allow Cifire and Bishop Mambo seek legal representations. Cifire’s case would come up on August 16 while Bishop Mambo’s is set for August 17. United Progressive People party president Saviour Chishimba, NGOCC board chairperson Sara Longwe and some lawyers were in court to follow the proceedings.