JUSTICE Minister Mulambo Haimbe says any action taken by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Lillian Siyunyi in the exercise of her office has been done unilaterally by her, in her sole discretion and in the purported exercise of her constitutional mandate.
And Haimbe has dispelled assertions which suggest that the President has interfered in the DPP’s functions in any way, including by issuing instructions to grant immunity to any persons facing criminal proceedings.
Meanwhile, Haimbe has asked the Judicial Complaints Commission to expedite the process of handling complaints which have been made against Siyunyi.
At a press briefing, Wednesday, Haimbe said it was not the new dawn government’s policy for the President to meet and negotiate with any person that was in conflict with the law.
Among the people who attended the briefing were Attorney General Mulilo Kabesha, State House media director Clayson Hamasaka, Presidential Spokesperson Anthony Bwalya and President Hichilema’s legal advisor Christopher Mundia.
“We wish to end all public speculation which suggests that the presidency has interfered in the DPP’s functions in any way including by issuing instructions to grant immunity to any persons facing criminal proceedings in Zambia. No such instructions have ever been issued as doing so would be abhorrent to the principle of the new dawn government to protect institutions of governance and the rule of law. We thus wish to make it clear for the avoidance of any doubt that any action taken by the DPP in the exercise of her office has been done unilaterally by her, in her sole discretion and in the purported exercise of her constitutional mandate,” Haimbe said.
“In the same view, we wish to make it absolutely clear that it is not the policy of the new dawn government for the president to meet and negotiate with any person that is in conflict with the law for purposes of subverting the course of justice. Kindly take note accordingly.”
He said there had been significant lapses on the part of the DPP which required thorough, independent and fair investigation by relevant bodies.
“The question that begs the answer is whether the learned DPP has exercised her functions within the confines of the law and in the public interest. Our initial assessment in answer to that question is that there have been significant lapses on the part of the DPP which require thorough, independent and fair investigation by relevant bodies,” he said.
He said the government would not comment on some matters because they were in court.
“This leads me to the topical issue of the day, that being the role of the learned DPP in the fight against corruption give recent occurrences that have gained significant public interest and speculation. Unfortunately, the public sentiments have by and large questioned the manner in which the DPP has conducted herself in relation to the prosecution of certain individuals, among them the former liquidator of KCM, Mr Milingo Lungu,” Haimbe said.
“We are alive to the fact that these matters are at various stages within the court system and as such that they are subjudicae and not subject to discussion on their merits here. We shall thus limit this statement to matters of general administration as regards the functions of the office of the DPP without delving into the substantive allegations before various courts.”
He urged the Judicial Complaints Commission to to expedite its consideration of the complaints before it.
“In this regard, we are aware that various citizens have approached the judicial complaints commission with complaints against the DPP. The JCC’s mandate, among other things, is to independently investigate and consider such complaints with a view ultimately to redressing them in accordance with the law. Suffice to say however, that as custodians of the public interest, and given the importance of the matters at hand, the ministry urges the JCC to expedite its consideration of the complaints before it so as, not only to afford the learned DPP a platform on which to explain her actions, but also to put an end to pubic speculation over these very important issues,” he said.
Haimbe said the ministry expected investigative commissions and those entrusted with prosecutorial duties to operate within their legal mandates.
“In relation to the investigative, arrest and prosecutorial roles, the ministry expects investigative commissions and those entrusted and bestowed with prosecutorial duties to operate within their statutory established legal mandates. The mandate of the director of public prosecutions as provided under article 180 (3) and (4) of constitutional cap.1 of the laws of Zambia which provides that: “180. 3. The Director of Public Prosecution is the chief prosecutor for the government and head of the national prosecutions authority,” Haimbe said.
“The Director of Public Prosecutions may- (a)institute and undertake criminal proceedings against a person before a court, other than a court martial, for an offence alleged to have been committed by that person; (b) take over and continue criminal proceedings instituted or undertaken by another; and (c) discontinue, at any stage before judgment is delivered, criminal proceedings instituted or undertaken by the director of public prosecutions or another person or authority.”
Haimbe said the DPP must undertake her functions within the confines of the law.
“The long and short of the foregoing is that the Director Public Prosecution enjoys discretion in the exercise of her role. Contrary to speculations that have taken hold in the public to the effect that His Excellency the President can direct the DPP in the exercise of her functions, the converse is actually true. The only caveat to the exercise of the DPP’s functions is that she must do so within the law, failure to which she must be held to account, as no one is above the law,” Haimbe said.
He reiterated that the government was committed to the fight against corruption.
“It is in this regard that we wish to reiterate the new dawn administration’s commitment to the fight against corruption and upholding the rule of law as emphasised by His Excellency the president of the republic of Zambia, Mr Hakainde Hichilema on numerous occasions. In terms of the fight against corruption, the ministry shall continue to uphold and respect the institutional and functional independence of the key stakeholders charged with championing that fight, including but not limited to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions as provided under article 180 (7) of the constitution, cap. 1 of the laws of Zambia and constitutionally established investigative commissions which include the anti-corruption commission, the Drug Enforcement Commission and the Zambia Police Service among others,” Haimbe said.
“However, as custodians of the public interest as aforementioned, the ministry is duty bound to forestall, within the confines of the law, any abuse of the constitution and the law by those mandated to uphold it through the exercise of public functions.”
Asked if President Hichilema, Vice-President Mutale Nalumango and Bradford Machila held any meeting with Milingo Lungu, he said he could not respond to certain specific questions because they were before court.
“I think you have noted right from the outset of this press briefing that I stated that matters are before court, some of the questions that you have asked relate to specific allegations that are before court. Certainly, as the Ministry of Justice, we are not going to defend this matter in public domain through the press. At an appropriate time, an affidavit in response to the petition that has been filed will be filed into court where all the allegations that have been put forward will be dealt with. We don’t want to be cited for contempt. That is why this statement has been limited to the general principles relating to how this government wants to approach the question against corruption,” Haimbe responded.
“So please let us avoid asking questions about the substantive allegations and assuming that the substantive allegations are true, you assume that meetings took place and so on. That is one side of the story only. Be patient, wait for the correct documents to be filed into court and you will get your answers.”
Asked if DEC had powers to re-arrest following a nolle prosequi, Haimbe responded in the affirmative.
Asked if State House and government were pushing an agenda to hound out the DPP, he said there was no such agenda.
“I think we need to dispel that public sentiment. The unfortunate situation we find ourselves in, in the advent of social media, is that once a notion has been put out, out there, a narrative has been formed, it turns noble, then the general public tends to think that narrative is the absolute and gospel truth. I want to reiterate and say His Excellency the President has said repeatedly, we believe in operating via the rule of law and so, what you are suggesting or if the public sentiments goes contrary to our very ethos that we are running government under, which is that we respect independent institutions, if you were to take your questions and flip it on its head, you would ask yourself that if there is such an agenda by the government in its entirety against an individual office holder, what would have taken the government so long to act? Clearly, there is no such agenda on the part of the government. There is no witch hunt of anybody as the case may be,” Haimbe said.
Asked if JCC could form a quorum for complaints to be heard since some of its members were yet to be ratified, he responded in the affirmative.
“The composition currently of the JCC is aside from the chairperson who was appointed and sworn in by His Excellency the President, the other members currently sitting on the JCC were appointed by the previous administration so that should answer your question on whether there is independence. As for the members who were appointed by His Excellency, you are aware that the announcement was made I think a day before Parliament or even on the actual day that Parliament recessed, meaning that the process of ratification has not been undertaken and those do not participate in the functions of the JCC until such time that Parliament would have ratified them or otherwise as the case may be,” he said.
“So, they are not part of the panel. And for those members who are existing when they do convene, as a complete set, including the earlier appointees, yes, they are able to form a quorum.”
And when asked to elaborate what he meant by saying there were lapses with regards to the office of the DPP, Haimbe said the ministry would explain before the JCC in an event that they were called as witnesses.
“Our assessment of the manner in which these matters have been addressed shows a number of lapses in terms of, for instance ,the issue of giving directives to the DEC on how to perform the functions of that office. But the critical thing to note is these matters are of a confidential nature and even though I am answering you, the proper government processes are such that this is an internal issue that ought to be addressed internally or as is the case now that it is in public domain because there is a complaint that has been issued to the JCC, we are able to speak to some of that. But as a ministry, we have no role to play unless we are called as witnesses in the proceedings of the JCC because it is independent,” said Haimbe.
“And in the event that we are called as witnesses, we will be able to give our professional assessment based on the legal provisions, the constitution and other provisions of the law as to why we believe there are lapses. The other matters will be properly dealt with in the event that there is a hearing that is convened by the JCC. We don’t know whether a hearing will be convened or not. That is entirely up to the JCC.”
Meanwhile, Bwalya said the Head of State would never meet any individual in conflict with the law.
He added that the Zambian people should have faith in the President and the men around him, insisting that they would work tirelessly to rid the country of the corruption epidemic that had become endemic.