Once Welcomed Malawian Judge Faces Time In Zambian Jail

A Malawian High Court Judge who was invited to chair a judicial tribunal appointed to probe two High Court judges and one Supreme Court judge in Zambia sometime last year in a curious twist of fate now risks going to jail for contempt of court after ignoring Zambian High Court orders.

The Malawian judge might end up in a Zambian prison cell if found guilty. Photo released under Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0)  by Flickr user

The Malawian judge, Lovemore Chikopa, might end up in a Zambian prison cell if found guilty. Photo released under Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0) by Flickr user Tim Pearce

The Malawian Judge, Lovemore Chikopa, has camped in Zambia for over a year waiting to hear the cases of High Court judges Nigel Mutuna, Charles Kajimanga and Supreme Court judge Philip Musonda, who has since resigned, for alleged professional misconduct. In the same period, Zambian President Michael Sata appointed two other tribunals to probe two High Court judges Emelia Sunkutu and Timothy Katanekwa.

The tribunal appointed by Sata, who invited Chikopa from neighbouring Malawi to chair it, has been hit by legal challenges at every turn with the three judges fighting their case in court.

In this latest development, the High Court in Ndola, Zambia’s third largest city about 400 kilometers from the capital Lusaka, stopped the tribunal from going ahead after Mutuna and Kajimanga challenged the tribunal’s constitutionality. An earlier challenge in May 2012 saw the three judges seek an injunction to stop the tribunal.

Musonda was granted leave to seek judicial review by High Court judge Florence Lengalenga over the Chikopa tribunal following his resignation as a Supreme Court judge. Chikopa had, however, wanted to continue hearing Musonda’s case.

Whether out of ignorance or impunity, Chikopa continued sitting even after he was handed the order to stop him from going ahead.

The story was reported by both Zambian and Malawian online media. Reported the Zambian Watchdog:

Judge Lovemore Chikopa and his secretary Magaya Katunasa are expected to appear before Ndola High Court judge Mwiinde Siavwapa to answer to a charge of contempt of court and explain why they should not be sent to jail or suffer other sanctions for disobeying a lawful court order […] Lawyers representing judges Nigel Mutuna and Charles Kajimanga are preparing final papers for the committal of Chikopa and Katunasa for their disregarding of an order stopping their tribunal.

Zambian Reports, questioning how the tribunal which has faced criticism right from the beginning would continue with such obstacles, wrote:

It still remains to be seen how the ‘kangaroo’ tribunal will proceed in light of these developments […] However, Chikopa, who has been holed up in Zambia after being imported from Malawi, on government money has shown more than usual zeal to go on with proceedings regardless of the obstacles.

Nyalubinge Ngwende, on his blog, Brutal Journal, criticizes the president for allegedly trying to protect his friends who owe the Development Bank of Zambia, which lends money to businesses, over 14 billion Zambian Kwacha (about 2.6 million US dollars) in a matter that was handled by judges Mutuna, Kajimanga and Musonda at one point or another. Nyalubinge pointed out:

The Lovemore Chikopa tribunal is one obvious case of President Sata trying to punish judges for his friends […] Mutuna, Kanjimanaga and Musonda are victim of their bold decision in a case in which Mutembo Nchito (now DPP [Director of Public Prosecution]) and Fred M'membe (owner of the Post Newspaper and confessed friend of Sata) were told to pay back K14 billion they had borrowed from a public bank, Development Bank of Zambia.

Nchito and M’membe ran an airline, Zambian Airways, which later went burst.

Ngwende also quoted what Sata said when appointing the Chikopa Tribunal:

My office has received numerous complaints about Justices Philip Musonda who is a Supreme court Judge, Charles Kajimanga and Nigel Mutuna who are High court Judges, from the Law association of Zambia, Lawyers within the judiciary and members of the public […] The terms of reference would be based on the allegations that the trio interfered with a case involving the Post newspapers, Development Bank of Zambia (DBZ and JNC holding limited and Mutembo Nchito.

In the meantime, Zambians, especially those that have seen the Chikopa Tribunal as an unnecessary undertaking and a waste of public resources, await the day the Malawian judge would stand in a Zambian court as an accused person and probably end up in a Zambian jail as a convict.

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