CHIEF State Advocate in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Nkumbiza Mumba says her office delays to take some cases to court because of insufficient investigations.
And Mumba says there are times when the office takes matters to court because of high public interest, even when they are not so confident of securing a conviction.
In an interview, Mumba added that the office of the DPP had insufficient funding which affected its operations.
“There is insufficient funding which affects our operations, especially in the district offices, we have prosecutors that do their own cleaning of the offices, there are no support staff. Prosecutors go to clean their own offices before going to court because we are unable to employ sufficient staff due to insufficient funding. We also face challenges with our stakeholders, especially investigators where investigations are insufficient sometimes because of insufficient capacity on their part. So that mostly causes us to send back most dockets,” Mumba said.
“Sometimes you hear of delays in taking cases to court, it is because after assessing the evidence, we realise that the investigations were not conclusively done so you want them to do additional investigations before we can proceed to court. The reason we do that is when we take a matter to court, we should be confident that we are able to secure convictions.”
Mumba explained that they only take cases to court when there is sufficient evidence.
“For example, we receive a murder docket, someone is arrested and is already in custody because those are non-bailable offences including aggravated robbery. Then the docket comes, then from the witnesses that we interviewed, for example, if it was a robbery, the witness saw the attack at night, the witness was alone and then from our assessment, from the statement of that witness who claims to have seen this person, they don’t even indicate what helped them see this perpetrator clearly, because they are supposed to state the type of light, the circumstances they made the observation, how long the attack took, all those things,” she said.
“So, we find that those things are not stated and then to make matters worse, possibly the police did not even conduct an identification parade. Then in such a case, we would send back such a docket just to say ‘clarify on this, how was the witness able to know this suspect especially that the attack took place at night.’ Our role is not to send people to prison, we only take cases to court where we are satisfied that there is sufficient evidence.”
When asked about allegations that the office of the DPP favoured PF, Mumba said people only talk when there are cases involving politically connected people, despite the office prosecuting several cases per year.
“How many cases involving politically inclined people do we receive per year? Then compare that with the total number of cases we prosecute per year. Matters tried in the subordinate court, last year we prosecuted about 36,000 cases then in the High Court we prosecuted about 4,000 cases, how many of those did we enter nolles? You will notice that people only talk when there are cases involving politically connected people. But there are so many other cases which we discontinue for various reasons. It is not only because they are politically connected but because of evidence mostly. And there is also the issue of public interest consideration, there are times when we take matters to court, sometimes we are not so confident that we will secure a conviction but because of public interest consideration, we may take such cases to court because the public is so much interested in the case,” she said.
“Such cases like [that], imagine the famous one, a police officer is beaten at the police station by a civilian, the proper thing is to take the matter to court just to give a signal to the public that this will not be tolerated. You as a Journalist, you go and cover a story, then you are beaten in the process of carrying out your duties, then we need to send a signal to the public that such cases, we prosecute. So, when people are complaining or we are trending, of course possibly we don’t know the motives of some people, they don’t look at things holistically. For the ordinary people, people don’t even notice that we are discontinuing maybe because of the attention that those cases receive but we are not biased in any way. So you will realise that the nolles we enter against politically connected persons are maybe like 5 percent of the nolles that we do.”
Mumba said only K2 million for witness management was allocated to them per year which was not sufficient.
“We receive almost the entire allocation that we are allocated per year but is still insufficient to cover our running costs. The money that is set aside for operation, office running expenses and the like, is like a ratio of 7 to 3 because most of the funding goes to personal emoluments which leaves very little for operational costs. Currently, we are supposed to also attend to witnesses, we are supposed to fund their coming to court, if they are coming from far, there are overnight expenses but we [are] allocated K2 million per year for witness management which is also insufficient. Places like North-Western Province, distances are very long, imagine a witness coming from Zambezi to attend to a matter in Solwezi, then they spend less than two nights in Solwezi which we have to fund,” she said.
“So, North-Western Province itself, I am just from signing witness management requests, they are requesting for K85,000 for April sessions only. So, compare that with all the provinces in Zambia, then dividing K2 million, it is clearly insufficient. So, we are unable to adequately cater for our witnesses especially that we have vulnerable witnesses that may even require counselling before testifying. So, they will need to spend more time with us. Because of insufficient funding and lack of treasury authority, ideally we would want to have more witness liaison officers that can help with taking care of witnesses but we are unable to have more than we have currently. We only have one witness liaison officer per province which is very insufficient”
And on allegations that some dockets got lost in the office of the DPP, Mumba said there was always back up.
“Sometimes when we receive dockets they are scanned even before the DPP sees them. When the registry receives a docket, they scan it and then it comes to the DPP. So even if we lose a hard copy, there is still a soft copy in the system that can be looked at to confirm,” said Mumba.