Jun 4, 2010

Continued Madness

This wasn’t my intended post for today but I believe this issue takes greater precedence. Fred M’membe, The Post’s Editor-in-chief, has been sentenced to four months imprisonment with hard labour for contempt of court. The contempt case arose from an opinion piece authored by Prof Muna Ndulo titled: The Chansa Kabwela case: A Comedy of Errors, and published in the paper last August.

In this article, Ndulo suggests that the prosecution of Chansa Kabwela was unnecessary and damaging to Zambia’s image and standing “as a tolerant and democratic country”. His criticism was directed at the political motivations behind the prosecution, driven primarily by President Banda and the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Ndulo and M’membe were brought up on contempt of court charges on the grounds that they were attempting to influence the court. Exactly which article was the prosecution reading? If it’s the same article that I and many others have read, at no point does Ndulo try to influence the thinking or decision making of the court in the case against Kabwela. He specifically points out errors of judgment made initially by the police at the direction of the President, and subsequently by the prosecution.

The case against Kabwela was flimsy and should not have been pursued. It blatantly displayed the weaknesses of our state institutions that are supposed to provide checks and balances. It also further confirmed the executive dominance that still exists in Zambia.

Ndulo’s article was not neither heretical nor inaccurate. His sentiments were echoed by many others but unfortunately the loudest voices heard weren’t the voices of reason and this case cropped up and barreled through the courts.

Personal opinions about M’membe aside, this contempt case and the subsequent ruling mark a sad day for those of an independent mind. Who is next?  

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