PROFESSOR of law, Muna Ndulo, says it seems that in Zambia today, the police have taken over the constitutional responsibilities of the Director of Public Prosecutions, a situation which has led to many people being unfairly charged with serious non-bailable offences.
“Currently, one of the most alarming practices is the police charging people with serious non-bailable crimes and keeping them behind bars on the pretext that they are waiting for instructions from the DPP’s office on how to proceed with the case. The DPP then inordinately delays giving the instructions, which results in the accused remaining behind bars for a protracted period of time. This scenario suggests that in Zambia, the police have captured the prosecution service, and have taken over the constitutional responsibilities of the DPP and determine who is prosecuted, when, and for what,” he observed.
Professor Ndulo is absolutely right. One of the important duties of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions is to ensure that all citizens are treated fairly before the law. We expect the Director of Public Prosecutions to make sure that the prosecution service is not used as a tool for extracting political advantage by those in government. What we are seeing now suggests that this is what is happening at the National Prosecutions Authority.
The Director of Public Prosecutions cannot hide behind some useless procedures to justify keeping a person, such as UPND deputy secretary general Patrick Mucheleka, in prison. These fights that the people at the National Prosecutions Authority are allowing themselves to engage in on behalf of politicians will come to haunt them.
This is not the first time that this office is being abused in this way. Hakainde Hichilema, the UPND president, was locked up, as everybody knows, for a non-existent treason case. Everyone knew that the case was heading nowhere, and yet Madam Lillian Siyunyi slept comfortably in her house whilst Mr Hichilema was in prison. But when the time came for her to prove her case and to show how Mr Hichilema committed treason, she invoked a nolle prosequi. This is a signature ending of a politically-motivated case involving trumped up charges on an innocent citizen.
We were surprised to hear the Director of Public Prosecutions admit publicly that sometimes, her office prosecutes cases where there is no evidence, as long as it is in public interest. We still do not know what she meant. We are still confused with this definition of justice from the office of the learned Director of Public Prosecutions. What does that mean? To us, and we believe that we speak on behalf of any other lay person, this sounds like a perfect definition of persecution.
How do you prosecute someone without evidence? What kind of justice is that? Which law school is that which teaches that public interest takes precedence over facts? So, now, if we may ask; how many people have been dragged to court on trumped up charges because the Director of Public Prosecutions felt it was necessary to satisfy the so-called “public interest?” How many citizens have been sent to prison in the absence of evidence, simply because they could not afford a lawyer?
This kind of abuse of the law to punish political opponents must come to an end, and the Director of Public Prosecutions has a huge role to play in ensuring that this rot is brought to a stop. All that Madam Siyunyi needs to do is to divorce the politicians and marry the law. It’s time she distanced herself from the political battles. The law is the law, it must not be the law only when it suits those in power. In the case of Patrick Mucheleka, Madam Siyunyi must ask those who arrested Mucheleka to give her the evidence they have, and she will see what we mean when we talk about using the law to settle political scores.
What is happening to Mucheleka is not fair. It’s different when somebody has committed a crime and you are constrained by the law. But this is not the case. These are just politicians showing off their power, and it should worry our Director of Public Prosecutions that this is happening under her watch.
In Eastern Province, they say, “Chaona munzako chapita m’maba chili paiwe”. Let the President and his Minister of Home Affairs know that what they are allowing to happen to Mucheleka will happen to them one day soon. Let us not allow what is happening to the UPND official pass without our voices being heard. You don’t have to like the man, you don’t have to agree with him. But as a human being, he deserves our solidarity.