PARLIAMENT has unanimously ratified the appointment of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Chalwe Mchenga as High Court Judge.
Other appointees ratified for the same position are solicitor-general Mubanga Kondolo, his predecessor Dominic Sichinga, and Mrs Nicola Ann Sharpe-Phiri.
Mr Mchenga has been the victim of severe public criticism from the time he refused to appeal the acquittal of former President Frederick Chiluba in 2009, but recently President Sata said he does not support character assassination of individuals who cannot defend themselves like the DPP.
The Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to scrutinise the quartet’s appointment unanimously recommended Mr Mchenga after establishing that allegations of compromise levelled against him were not based on substantial evidence but public opinion.
Moving the motion for the House to adopt the Committee’s report yesterday, chairperson Jack Mwiimbu said: “The Committee is thus unanimous in its resolution that in the absence of substantial evidence to prove the allegations against the nominee (Mr Mchenga), he was unfairly judged and that in the interest of natural rules of justice and human rights, the Committee will not hold allegations against the nominee.
“The Committee, therefore, after due and thorough evaluation of written and oral evidence presented to it by the witnesses and the interviews with the nominees, is of the view that all the four nominees are qualified and competent to serve as Puisne Judges.”
He said all witnesses that were invited to help in the scrutiny of the nominees unreservedly supported Mr Kondolo, Mr Sichinga and Mrs Phiri but Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) and the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) opposed the appointment of Mr Mchenga on grounds that he was compromised by the executive when he refused to appeal Dr Chiluba’s acquittal.
LAZ, through its honorary secretary Paulman Chungu, based this stance on the fact that Mr Mchenga refused to respond to it when the association wrote to him asking for his explanation on the matter; and that some ministers in the Rupiah Banda administration publicly declared that government would not appeal against the judgment.
“Thus, when the nominee did not respond to LAZ’s letter, the latter was compelled to believe that the nominee may have been compromised,” the committee’s report reads in part.
Mr Mwiimbu said the Committee observed that witnesses who did not support Mr Mchenga’s appointment based their decisions on public perception without any substantial evidence to prove the allegation.
He said further, when Mr Mchenga appeared before the Select Committee he executed himself well in his explanation to exculpate himself from the allegation that he had been compromised in the Chiluba case.
“The Committee further observes that the nominee was forthright in his answers to the questions posed to him. The Committee is satisfied that Mr Mchenga, State Counsel, acted within confines of the law.
“Further, unless where the exercise of the DPP’s powers involves public policy, in which case the DPP has to consult the Attorney General, the Committee observes that in accordance with Article 56(7) of the Constitution of Zambia, Chapter 1 of the Laws of Zambia, the exercise of the DPP’s powers is not subject to the direction or control of any person or authority, and this includes public opinion,” Mr Mwiimbu, who is also Monze Central MP (UPND), said.
Contributing to debate, Roan MP Chishimba Kambwili (PF) urged the newly-appointed judges to help in speeding up dispensation of justice, saying it is unfair for inmates awaiting trial to spend many years in prison.
And Speaker of the National Assembly Patrick Matibini curtailed Minister of Justice Sebastian Zulu’s debate when he attempted to delve into details of the Chiluba case instead of concentrating on the motion on the floor of the House.