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Ziyambi Ziyambi not in contempt of court but in contempt of state enemies?

19 May 2021 at 06:51hrs | Views
The minister of Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs has touched an eye of the eagle by his comments after the pronouncement of the infamous Judgement from the darkest of the hour. The High Court issued a declaratory judgement which saw the Chief Justice Malaba being relieved of his duties.

There has been calls for the minister to be indicted for contempt of court from all corners. But what is contempt of court? Contempt of court' happens when someone risks unfairly influencing a court case. It may stop somebody from getting a fair trial and can affect a trial's outcome. Contempt of court includes: disobeying or ignoring a court order. ... publicly commenting on a court case, for example on social media or online news articles.

Contempt of court, often referred to simply as "contempt", is the offense of being disobedient to or disrespectful toward a court of law and its officers in the form of behavior that opposes or defies the authority, justice and dignity of the court.

Now coming back to the minister's comments it is very difficult to see what can be deemed to be contemptuous. The first point raised by the minister clearly showed that the minister was both a litigant and a politician. His opening remarks are below quoted verbatim.

"1. We have taken note of the decision made by the Court, and as a Country which respects the rule of law, we will respect that decision, but you must also know that as litigants ,we have our rights which are protected by the law."

The minister indicated that he indeed belongs to a country which respects the rule of law and as a litigant he prays for his rights to be protected by the same law whose rule is supreme. The minister then showed the greatest of respect and agreed to disagree with the the court's decision.  The points raised
The Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) has said utterances made by Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi have the effect of diminishing public confidence in the judiciary. Many civic organisations and lawyers have voiced their concern over the statement by the minister of justice.

"We have carefully considered the statement and we are of the view that the statement is contemptuous of the court that dealt with this matter. A litigant aggrieved by a court decision has a right of appeal and such displeasure must be addressed through an appeal filed at court. A public statement attacking a court of law has the effect of ridiculing the judiciary thereby diminishing public confidence in the institution.

In this instance, it is our nconsidered view that prima facie, the attacks in the Minister's statement are unfair, unwarranted and not necessary especially coming from a Minister responsible for justice and who is also a legal practitioner. The statement threatens judicial independence and undermines the principle of separation of powers which are fundamental tenets of the rule of law.

Our country's Constitution provides unequivocally for the independence of the judiciary for impartial delivery of justice, defending and upholding the Constitution and to act freely without fear or favour. This independence should never be compromised, but should be defended at all costs. The LSZ reaffirms and implores the State, its institutions and every agency of the Government to respect the provisions of Section 164 of the Constitution which provides as follows;" continued the law society.

Looking at the words of the minister which were said in his capacity as a minister it is not clear how the law society finds the words to be contemptuous.

The minister's tone when he referred to court was full of respect. "With the greatest of respect, we do not agree with the decision of the Court for so many reasons and for that reason, we have already instructed our lawyers to file an appeal first thing on Monday morning."
The language is not in any way combative but indeed emotional.

The minister reacted in an expected manner. He is a passionate person and takes his job with passion. The judgement went to the level of causing pain to the minister. Behind the ministerial office there is a person.

People  should understand that Ziyambi is not only a lawyer or a minister he is a politician. His statement was. Political statement which people are trying to make it look like a pint of law.

 Ziyambi was in my opinion was in the right when in his statement he questioned the motive of a judge who refuses to step down from the case.
"We do not understand how the Honourable Justice Zhou insisted on proceeding with the matter after we sought his recusal because he is clearly conflicted."

Ziyambi had genuine questions which were facts but not points of law.
It is therefore reasonable for any person to question the anomalies he witnessed. This was not addressed to court. We should remember that At the time the minister raised these issues the case was already decided and an unrestricted emotional statement was not contemptuous because there was no case before the courts anymore.
The minister questioned the inefficiency and the snail speed of releasing a full judgement. This was not an insult on the judge but an honest questioning.

The minister voiced his displeasure and the way the judges failed to be in charge of care after court. Their office management was what the minister was talking about.  This surely can not be contemptuous.

"This is a typical case of judicial overreach and as Government, we are not going to accept that. This is clear violation of the doctrine of separation of powers- the Judiciary should know where it ends. It is not the big brother of the other two arms of the State which it wants to purport to be. It is just another arm of the State."

This statement is pregnant with emotions and emotions cAn never translate to contempt.
The minister went on to spill the beans As he said "I must also mention and make it very clear that we are aware of multi-lateral and foreign organisations who have poured in a lot of money through the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights to capture various state institutions and to destabilise the Government."

This statement did not say that it was the court which was compromised. He actually mentioned  Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. They are not the court and attacking them was not contemptuous.

The statement which everybody misunderstood is his point 11. It says "The situation now in this country is that there is a risk of judicial capture where the Judiciary has been captured by certain elements both within and outside Zimbabwe who want to destabilise the second Republic." The minister said clearly that there was a risk of Judiciary capture. This does not point a finger to the judiciary but to those who are bent of capturing the judiciary.  He actually made a very direct true submission where he said "We are also aware of certain members of the opposition, the MDC Alliance, who are being paid monthly allowances for causing turmoil in this country and for being arrested." This is a true statement and it is directed to the MDC and not the court. I am not sure how can anyone say the MDC is now a court and attacking them amounts to contempt. This thinking only confirms the great fear that our judicial system is at a risk of being compromised by the MDC. I still do not understand how this can be called contempt.

 The minister promised to expose all these malcontents and economic saboteurs who are not sleeping until they bring down the second Republic. This is a statement of a concerned man and those who feel exposed are the ones saying the minister was contemptuous.
The minister talked of enemies and used a figurative speech where he said he will poke the enemy in the eye and confront it.
 He never made the court the enemy and it is surprising that the minister was attacking the court.

The last time I checked it was never a crime to suggest transformation of the Judiciary. This is not a crime neither is it contemptuous. "You need to only look at various decisions that have been made by a certain group of Judges which are meant to tarnish the second Republic." This was a rhetoric statement which did not suggest any wrongdoing on the part of the judges.
There was no mention of a particular judge. One wonders why people are crying Wolfe.

It is surprising that some people consider these statements as contempt. This is just a way to get at the minister even there is no reason.

The law society did not want the truth and they have just joined in The war against the minister.
Like any other person one has to ask questions. The questions are hard ones and the enemies are trying to setup the minister and the courts for a fight.
There is nowhere in the minister's statement where he attacked the judges but their decision only.

This cry about contempt is nonsense not true and highly provocative.
 In conclusion the minister said
"We are going to exercise our right in terms of the law and file an appeal against this baseless and meaningless decision of the High Court."
The minister has stood by his word and appealed. So with all the due respect people should leave Ziyambi alone and concentrate on the case.

Source - Dr Masimba Mavaza
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