NEWS from Kasama is that the State has entered a nolle prosequi in a matter in which UPND deputy secretary general Patrick Mucheleka and three others were charged with aggravated robbery. Mr Mucheleka and his fellow UPND members, Elias Mubanga, Samuel Ngwira and Chishimba Bwalya, have been in remand prison since September 14 when they were picked up by police and denied bail on grounds that the charge leveled against them was non-bailable.
This development comes only a week after we predicted that the Mucheleka case would be disposed of through a nolle prosequi, which is a signature ending of a politically motivated criminal charge slapped on an innocent person. In that editorial opinion, we also observed that the Mucheleka case exemplified what Director of Public Prosecutions Lillian Siyunyi said a few months ago that sometimes, her office finds it necessary to prosecute a case in public interest, even when there is no evidence.
Here we are! Just like that, Mucheleka has paid the price; detained and humiliated like a common criminal because, in the eyes of the State, it was in public interest to subject him to this baseless torture. There was no evidence against Mucheleka, but it was necessary, under PF law, to satisfy “public interest”, which public, only the PF and the DPP know.
It can no longer be argued that the State slapped Mucheleka with a non-bailable charge of aggravated robbery not because they had evidence against him, but because they wanted to subject him to a painful and depressing remand prison experience. Their desire was to kill Mucheleka’s spirit and instill fear in him so that his political activities in the region where he comes from can be slowed down.
The DPP and the police who arrested Mucheleka knew that he was innocent from the beginning. They had no case against him. If they had, they would not have discharged him, they would not let him walk to freedom. The remaining charge of malicious damage to property is what they were looking for, but because that particular charge is bailable, they added aggravated robbery in order to justify their intended actions.
We know that it is very complicated for citizens who are watching from a distance to know that their government is up to no good. We are under siege as a country but, unfortunately, we do not seem to have the capacity to collectively emancipate ourselves from this continued oppression at the hands of the Patriotic Front.
The charge of aggravated robbery is very serious. This is what a known PF cadre was involved in. He attacked a police station, armed with a gun, beat up officers on duty and stole money from them. But this cadre was protected by the system because he is a close ally of the President; this cadre was protected because he is a front of senior PF officials in illegal activities such as the smuggling of Mukula.
Mucheleka did not do anything of that nature. He was innocent, but the State decided to make him serve a ‘prison sentence’ for all these weeks and deprived him access to his wife and children, simply because he is a political opponent of the party in power. This is not something that we should be tolerating in a democracy; this is not how citizens must be treated in a Christian nation; this is an indictment on the government, as it is happening in October, a few days ahead of the so called National Day of Prayer and Reconciliation.
What is happening in this country is very sad. We are seeing a lot of uncouth manoeuvres in the justice system meant to advance the political agenda of the party in power. State House and the Ministry of Home Affairs are doing a lot of damage to the justice system in the process of fighting political opponents of the Patriotic Front.
We should not allow the executive to overstretch its authority over the judiciary in a manner that the Patriotic Front has done. This defeats the principle of separation of powers. We should not allow the Edgar Lungu-led executive to dictate to the police who must be arrested and detained without bail or control the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
We want a director of Public Prosecutions at NPA, not a director of Nolle Prosecutions.