DRUG Enforcement Commission Director General Mary Chirwa says in her view, only sitting Presidents have immunity from prosecution, and also an accused person who has been turned into a state witness in a criminal matter.
And Chirwa says there is no friction between her and Director of Public Prosecutions Lilian Siyunyi.
Meanwhile, Chirwa says the Commission has fired about five officers who were damaging its reputation.
Asked whether the DPP had power to offer immunity from prosecution to a citizen Hot FM’s Breakfast Show, Friday, Chirwa said that was for the court to determine, but argued that according to her own understanding, only sitting Presidents were given immunity and also accused persons who had been turned into state witnesses in a criminal matter.
“I think the courts will determine that. To be fair I think this is a matter that is before the courts of law, I believe that they have jurisdiction in that respect. They will determine, I don’t think it is a responsibility that the DEC has to say whether or not the DPP’s office has [those powers]. Personally, I know that Constitutionally, it is only a sitting President that has immunity from prosecution or presidents unless the immunity is lifted. We have had cases where immunity is granted in terms of turning maybe one into a state witness. I know that when you have matters where people colluded or worked together in these financial crimes, when you look at the evidence, you want an insider to be able to speak to what was happening, then through the DPP’s office, you are able to grant immunity for that person to be a state witness. So they are immune in that particular matter from being prosecuted on the basis that they will be a state witness in that particular matter. I know that we have done that before,” she said.
When asked how she felt about the letter which the DPP wrote to her on the rearrest of former Konkola Copper Mines provisional liquidator Milingo Lungu, Chirwa said it was shocking that the letter was in public domain, adding that the Commission had taken a professional decision on the matter.
“I think that we need to be careful, this is a matter that is before the courts in different aspects. It is not a matter that I would love to really dwell on and discuss, but all I can say is that from the DEC point of view, that was just a professional decision taken on the matter. Obviously even for us, it was shocking that [the] letter was in the public domain,” she said.
When asked if the Commission held conversations with the DPP on which direction a case should take before a decision is made, Chirwa responded in the affirmative.
“On most of the cases, yes. There is close collaboration and interaction with officers and the NPA. Even in the past I worked with Judge [Chalwe] Mchenga when he was DPP, I worked with Mutembo Nchito when he was DPP. We used to sit and discuss cases and present the evidence we have, they tell us ‘strengthen there, strengthen there’. I know that this is still happening, even in the three months of being with DEC on certain matters, I have been able to sit with prosecutors under NPA to discuss on how to strengthen certain cases. So, that is a trend that is supposed to be encouraged. We call it prosecution-led investigations, so you sit with them, you take them and they guide you through the process,” she said.
Asked if she had a conversation with the DPP before any decision was made on the rearrest of former KCM Provisional Liquidator Milingo Lungu, Chirwa said “no”.
Chirwa, however, said the relationship between DEC and the National Prosecution Authority was sound.
“She is heading NPA, I am heading DEC, we are both heads of two different institutions, so we professionally do relate. There is no friction really. I think when you read about some of these things that we read about, people think that there are two women fighting and so on, these are just professional decisions that have been made by two different institutions and that is all I can say about it,” she said.
“The relationship between the Drug Enforcement Commission and the National Prosecution Authority is sound. Of course as you have said, all our cases go to the NPA and therefore my officers on the ground, the officers on the ground, the officers from NPA work hand in hand to take these matters. You will be interested to know that I think from the reports that have even been produced from January, February, we have a 97 percent conviction rate on DEC cases. So you can see from there that we have a good working relationship with NPA from that perspective.”
And Chirwa said the Commission had fired about five officers who were damaging the reputation of DEC.
“What is important is to have qualified officers and so the Anti [Money] Laundering Investigations Unit has officers that have a bias in financial accounting as well as lawyers. So from that perspective we have officers that we train in financial investigations who understand what they are supposed to do,” she said.
“It is a matter of inculcating the right values in the officers. I know that DEC has suffered in terms of reputation damage in that respect. But I can tell you that having gone back inside the institution, I can tell you that 90 percent of those officers are good, credible officers who know what they are doing. So you could have had a few bad eggs, we have so far fired even in these past three months, we have so far fired a number of them, I think about five or so officers that were damaging the reputation. At the end of the day the institution stands for what is right and you continuously speak of the values of the institution, the individual values, the Christian values that help to shape the direction of the institution. So with that I am sure in the next one or two years, the reputation of the Drug Enforcement Commission will be totally different,” she said.
Meanwhile, Chirwa recalled that she was once a victim of sexual harassment as a junior DEC officer.
“I should say that I have never felt intimidated by anyone in my working life, but I need to mention that at one point, I know what women go through. I need to mention that at one point when I was in DEC, I went through different departments in DEC but at the time, I was working in accounts and one of the senior people wanted to have a relationship with me. When I refused, I was transferred from the Accounting Unit to the Anti Laundering Investigations Unit. In their thinking, it was a punishment not knowing that God was using them because now it has paved the way to where I am today. So really, I know that women do go through these issues but you need to embrace certain principles that you stand for and that you stand by and there is nothing that can move you. So I have never really felt intimidated because I know who I am,” said Chirwa.