The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Thursday told the Supreme Court of Appeal that it wants convicted businessman Thomson Mpinganjira to remain in prison.
Mpinganjira, who was jailed for attempting to bribe judges who heard the presidential election case, re-applied for bail pending appeal at the Supreme Court after High Court Judge John Chirwa threw out his application in its entirety.
ACB lawyer Victor Chiwala said the grounds presented to the court Thursday were not exceptional and that, for that reason, Mpinganjira needed to remain in prison until the appeal was heard.
“To begin with, at the time you are coming to the court with this kind of application, the court must have already heard the appeal, which is not the case. Again, the issue of the court not being able to compose a panel of at least seven justices, as per the directive of the Chief Justice, [means] the directive can be varied. The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, says the minimum is three [justices]; so, the Chief Justice can vary the directive to have the case heard any time,” he said.
Mpinganjira was handed a nine-year jail term on October 5 2021 and appealed at the Supreme Court of Appeal against his conviction and sentencing by High Court Judge Dorothy DeGabriele.
He then applied for bail pending appeal, saying he was likely to win the appeal, was old and sick and that it would be difficult for the court to compose a bench of seven justices as per the directive of the Chief Justice in 2010.
Mpinganjira noted that out of the eight justices in the Supreme Court, four were witnesses in his case and could not hear the appeal.
On Chiwala’s remarks that the Chief Justice could vary the directive that matters in the Supreme Court should be heard by at least seven justices of appeal, Mpinganjira’s lawyer Alex Nampota said that would contravene the country’s Constitution, which provides for equal treatment before the law.
“Right now, matters are not being heard if there are less than seven justices; so, why should Dr Mpinganjira’s case be segregated? If the Chief Justice does that, it would be against the Constitution,” he said, adding that the move would lead to the Supreme Court of Appeal arriving at different determinations in similar cases if panels of three justices were allowed to hear cases.
After hearing the application, Justice Frank Kapanda said he would deliver a ruling on a later date.