There was drama at the Chikopa Tribunal yesterday when the Malawian Judge Lovemore Chikopa awkwardly resisted to be served with the Lusaka High Court order restraining him from proceeding with his tribunal after it was halted yet again by Judge Florence Lembalemba.
On Monday, lawyers representing Supreme Court Judge Phillip Musonda through a letter to the tribunal warned Judge Chikopa against going ahead but typical of the Malawian Judge, he had elected to ignore the warning and went ahead with the tribunal in the absence of the accused and his lawyers.
The lawyers had warned Judge Chikopa in the letter that they had perused the rules of the tribunal and were at a loss to find the legal basis for rejecting the documents and advised that the tribunal should have stayed the proceedings but Judge Chikopa decided to proceed. The lawyers then proceeded to obtain an order to stay the proceedings from the Lusaka High Court Judge Lengalenga. For the umpteenth time, the proceedings of Judge Chikopa Tribunal have been halted following another stay of the proceedings granted to former Supreme Court Judge Phillip Musonda pending the outcome of the judicial review.
The Malawian Judge was visibly bemused when the order was served on him by one of the lawyers representing Judge Musonda. The tribunal members among them the Attorney General Mumba Malila were preparing to open the second day of their session and when they were served with the order, the Malawian Judge quipped: “You are serving the order to us here?”
And the lawyer insisted on serving the order leaving the tribunal with no option but to accept the order after which there was a long spell of waiting before Judge Chikopa adjourned the proceedings. The lawyers said: “We take the liberty to advise that the tribunal should stop proceeding with the hearing of the matter.” one of the lawyers said. Judge Musonda in seeking the stay of the tribunal argued that the decision to proceed with the hearing was illegal as he had decided to resign from his office. He argued that the tribunal in proceeding with its sittings was acting in excess of its jurisdiction as the mandate of the tribunal had already been achieved by his resignation. Judge Musonda argued that it was illegal for the tribunal to assume that he was still a serving Supreme Court Judge when he had rendered his resignation to President Sata who was the appointing authority. Justice Musonda said it was unreasonable for the tribunal to continue to determine the matter that had already been determined by way of his resignation which resignation he explained had been accepted by the appointing authority. In their argument against the tribunal, the lawyers representing Judge Musonda said in light of the judicial review application that was currently pending in the High Court, any attempts by the tribunal to proceed was going to be subjudice and that it was going to undermine the High Court. The Judge Chikopa Tribunal was first stopped by High Court Judge Flugence Chisanga and for several months, the Malawian Judge remained in the country moonlighting while the court process was going. The continued stay of Judge Chikopa in the country has roundly been condemned prompting politicians like Heritage Party president demanding that the Malawian Judge should be deported with immediate effect because he was getting Zambian money without earning it. Other opposition political party leaders ranging from MMD’s Nevers Mumba and his counterpart in the UPND Hakainde Hichilema have extensively condemned the continued stay of the Malawian judge in the country and have branded the man a gold digger. But government through its spokesperson Kennedy Sakeni has awkwardly blamed the three accused judges and the courts of procrastinating the proceedings of the tribunal hence perpetuating the stay of Judge Chikopa in the country.