MIKE Mulongoti says the courts are not the Alpha and Omega and that the people who posses the power they carry will continue to challenge them. Commenting on the six-year jail sentence meted out on human rights activist Gregory Chifire, Mulongoti said it was sad that there was no opportunity to appeal because the sentence came from the Supreme Court.
The People’s Party leader said the courts were answerable to the people, who were the owners of the power they carry. Mulongoti said the courts were not the Alpha and Omega but employees of the people.
He said it was sad if employees of the people chose to incarcerate citizens for long sentences for merely questioning their judgments.
“What is sad is that there is no opportunity to appeal…appeal to who because that sentence came from the Supreme Court. So where does he [Chifire] appeal? What does that mean for justice? You have a closed door on account that the people who have meted the sentence are the highest court in the land, what does that mean? That kind of thing sends citizens into looking for other options. What options are available to people if court options close? This is very sad indeed,” Mulongoti said. “In as much as court must be protected for the sake of integrity of the courts but the consequence of their decision has got an effect on citizens and courts are answerable to the people. They are not the Alpha and Omega, they are employees of the people and if employees of the people choose to incarcerate people for that long for questioning…whatever, I think it’s becoming a little sad, very, very sad indeed. They will continue to make judgments and we will continue to challenge those judgments, so are they going to jail all of us? What happens if they made mistakes, are they not answerable to anybody? The power they carry is from the people, so it’s a very sad development but we do hope that in the intellectual circles of the legal fraternity this issue must be active in their minds because it’s leaving no option to the person.”
He said leaving a citizen with no options as it is in Chifire’s case breeds guerrilla warfare creations as seen in other nations.
“If the person can’t get what he considers justice here…you know in other countries people go to the bush and that’s how even guerrilla warfare starts because the person has got no choice when you close the door for that person. Why not give him an opportunity? I would have expected that the Supreme Court should have moved that matter to a lower court so that the appeal process can give him chance but like that what have they done? He belongs to Zambia, supposed he can’t come freely because he is a prisoner for questioning a judgment…what do you think he is going to do? This is why people go into exile and when in exile they start thinking of ways of coming back so that they can enjoy their rights as citizens of Zambia. That’s the most frightening thing about what has happened,” Mulongoti said.
“We will not stop, we will continue speaking. Those in the legal fora have got their role to play, we have got a role to play as well. …if we can’t give each other space then what happens? That’s the question. We have got to look for that space anyhow, somehow and you can’t blame people when they do that. But what is expected is that justice must be seen to be done and done for all and not where one group of privileged people have got power and they can do things like that. I am very disappointed, I must express this…I am very disappointed because that citizen, the only option is to go into exile but if he wants to come back here, what will happen? If he can’t come here in a normal way, then what happens? He has got a family and all that…that’s not fair.”
Mulongoti further urged the courts to show power on the many criminals who had violated the Constitution with impunity.
“This country is full of people who have committed felonies in as far as violating the Constitution [is concerned] and we have seen nothing from the judiciary, from the legal fraternity, but for a person who does such a thing [criticises their judgments] they want to show that they have a lot of power,” said Mulongoti.