Court order to arrest Simon Miti: State house says ‘no’

– State house does not need to take any position except to suspend the wanted the person
– It doesn’t matter whether the order is unprecedented, it’s now a precedent

STATE House has said it has taken a “no position” on the magistrate court’s order that President Edgar Lungu’s principal private secretary Dr Simon Miti should have his day in court for the theft of public funds from Ministry of Health at the time he was permanent secretary.

State House spokesperson Amos Chanda has told The Mast in an interview that the arrest order was “very delicate” and “unprecedented”.

Last week, the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court ordered the arrest of Dr Miti “in the interest of justice” to answer to corruption related charges brought out at the time he served as Ministry of Health permanent secretary.

Choma-based magistrate Exnorbit Zulu, who was sitting in Lusaka, said it was not too late to arrest Dr Miti and present him before court to also answer to the corruption-related charges.

Magistrate Zulu said this after convicting former Ministry of Health human resources officer Henry Kapoko and others for theft of over K6.8 million public money when they were employees of the Ministry at the time Dr Miti was permanent secretary.

He further said Dr Miti should answer to corruption charges because he was aware of what was transpiring in the Ministry, although he feigned ignorance.

Magistrate Zulu said Dr Miti was an accomplice, saying that was the reason when the State brought him as a witness, he expressed ignorance on the happenings because he had an interest to serve.

In reaction, Chanda said the situation was interesting because Dr Miti was not before the court that made pronouncements on him.

“He (President Lungu) has heard from a court judgment like any other; he hasn’t been briefed about what the matter is…what he has heard is that the magistrate has made a pronouncement that makes it appear like Dr Miti is a suspect. The President does not have that information that Dr Miti is a suspect, so he is waiting to receive information regarding this matter. What he has heard is nothing more than what he has seen from the prouncements of the magistrate,” Chanda said.

He further said President Lungu was very cautious to make any form of intervention and would wait to see what would happen.

“…the Presidency has taken a ‘no position’ because the matter is very delicate and unprecedented. This is an interesting situation; Dr Miti is not before court but the court has made pronouncements on him. In the interest of separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary, and the judiciary and the legislature on the other hand…the President is very cautious to make any form of intervention so for now, he is just waiting to see what happens because this decision by the magistrate is without precedent, its unprecedented,” Chanda said. “Dr Miti is not before the court, either as suspect or as a witness but those pronouncements have been made on him. So we have taken a no position as a result because it’s a very delicate matter and it’s unprecedented. In short, the President has no position on the matter…”

He said the executive was “totally constrained” to comment on the pronouncement because was judiciary was an independent arm of government.

“It’s like something dropping from the sky. I am sure you agree that this is unprecedented, the magistrate has made pronouncements on a person who is not before the court but that wing of the state is totally independent so we are restrained, totally constrained to comment on the decision of the Magistrate and actually, we are making no comment other than just to confirm that we have read like any other person has read comments of the judge or Magistrate,” said Chanda.

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    From the very beginning of this matter, even us lay people at law were wondering as to how such a colossal amount of K6.8 million could be stolen without the controlling officer approving it. I was also wondering as to what it means to become a state witness on a matter. I have heard that Dr. Miti became a state witness during the trial of the case, meaning that he knew something. So, what does the law say about someone who is an accomplice and turns himself/herself into a state witness? Can a state witness go scot-free even if he/she witnessed the committal of the offence and did nothing (and had the power to prevent it)?

    Corruption perception in Zambia is high. The moment we start addressing it seriously, we will see change. Procedures are necessary in a civilized society, but they should not derail our resolve to deal with the devil in our midst, let us face the scourge head-on, no sacred cows, please.