By Charles Mwaba
Muchenga is a pawn in the bigger political fight against President Banda
The name Chalwe Farai Muchenga, SC, Zambia’s Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), always make headlines. To those who know him well, he is an introvert, hardworking fellow who treasures his professional independence. To his enemies, Muchenga is an arrogant and aloof man who has sold himself to the Executive branch of Government.
Surprisingly, even the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ), which is supposed to be in the forefront of defending the DPP from the continued slur, its President Steven Lungu seem to be lost.
He is calling for the resignation of the DPP saying Muchenga is working closely with the Executive. Really? Lungu maybe innocently following a political trail without knowing that at the centre of the Muchenga fiasco is a serious attempt to portray President Rupiah Bwezani Banda as a man who has compromised the office of the DPP.
It is a political fight which is perpetuated by a cabal of disgruntled journalists, lawyers and civic leaders who have failed to profit from President Banda’s Government. Their businesses which strived on political connections are bleeding following their failure to lock themselves-in in the Banda Government.
But what is worrying is that LAZ knows very well the Constitutional provisions on how a DPP can be removed from office, but its leader – Lungu – has chosen to ignore the legal route in preference for political gymnastics. Why is LAZ not demanding for a Tribunal to be established to probe Muchenga for wrongdoing, if any, as provided for under the Constitution of Zambia? The truth of the matter is that Muchenga has done nothing warranting a Tribunal to probe him and LAZ knows that very well.
In Zambia, a DPP can only vacate his office once found guilty of wrongdoing by a Tribunal of Judges appointed to probe the allegations. Why is LAZ or Lungu to be precise, trying to shortcut the process? There is more than just meet an eye in all this fight especially that Muchenga rarely speaks outside the courtroom. So why pick a fight with such a man?
Muchenga’s enemies have been on his neck for many years. Initially, they tried to break him during the reign of late President Levy Patrick Mwanawasa, SC when he refused to bend on a number of issues to do with his office in order to accommodate political decisions. The Post Newspaper, which claims to be fighting corruption, went out of its way and called Muchenga all sorts of names.
But he remained resilient and continued with his work without answering to the massive defamatory accusations. While others have given in to pressure from a clique of few Zambian mercenaries trying to drive the corruption fight agenda, Muchenga has remained steady fast and focused on his job.
For those who may not know, Muchenga was persuaded to take up the job of DPP by President Mwanawasa following the infamous removal of his predecessor Mukelebai Mukelebai who was hounded out of office over flimsy accusations. Mulekelai left graciously and only to be found dead in Pretoria, South Africa where he had relocated.
That death still remains a mystery in the minds of many Zambians who remembers how he put up a gallant fight to stop the abuse of the legal process to fix individuals. Mukelebai was falsely accused of having connived with former Zambia Intelligence Security Services (ZISS) Director-General Xavier Franklin Chungu to have his corruption cases dismissed.
A Tribunal was appointed by Mwanawasa which found as a fact that Mukelabai was framed that he met with Chungu in Livingstone to plot on how to circumvent the fight against corruption.
Nonetheless, as a face saving measure, Government had to retire him in national interest because of the seriousness of the accusations notwithstanding that he was cleared by the Tribunal of Judge Esau Chulu.
During those difficult times, Mukelebai had a right-hand man who stood by him – Chalwe Farai Muchenga. It is no wonder that he initially declined to take up this key appointment as DPP when he was offered knowing well what the forces of evils did to his workmate and comrade – Mukelebai Mukelebai.
But after massive persuasion, he finally succumbed to take up the call to national duty and became Zambia’s DPP to the annoyance of the cabal of evil forces who had lined-up their spineless lawyer friends to take up the job. Muchenga has indeed lived up to his expectations and character – independent thinker who is only moved by truth and conviction of doing the right thing regardless of what others think.
Before assuming the DPP office, Muchenga worked diligently as a State Prosecutor and is renowned for his successful record of convictions, including that of 1997 Coup convicts of Captain Steven Lungu alias Capt. Solo and others. He also unsuccessfully prosecuted Fred Mmembe, Editor-In-Chief of The Post Newspaper for espionage when his newspaper published an unpatriotic exposure of Zambia’s military ‘incapacity’ to fight the Angolan army. Maybe that is a reason for receiving such bad editorial coverage in the newspaper.
On the professional front, no one can doubt Muchenga’s capabilities. Even his ratification as DPP in Parliament was smooth-sailing due to his rich curriculum vitae and professional experience.
Muchenga’s latest media fiasco began with the acquittal of former President Frederick Jacob Titus Chiluba on six counts of theft of public funds. Magistrate Jones Chinyama acquitted Chiluba because there was no sufficient evidence to show that the former President had stolen the US$500,000 dollars.
The case was prosecuted by Lusaka Lawyer Mutembo Nchito of MNB, who was retained by the Taskforce on Corruption but appointed as public prosecutor by the DPP. As a gazetted public prosecutor, Nchito was answerable to Muchenga at all times – In fact the Constitution of Zambia gives powers to the DPP to takeover any prosecution at any stage, including stopping any case, within the Republic of Zambia.
But without Muchenga’s knowledge, the Taskforce on Corruption chairman Maxwell Nkole instructed Nchito to appeal against the acquittal of Chiluba when the full judgment was not yet out. Muchenga, as a professional lawyer who is not persuaded by public opinion, asked for the judgment so that he could study the merits and demerits of the case before deciding whether to appeal or not.
However, the forces of evil had already planned to undermine the office of the DPP by pushing for the appeal regardless of the position of the DPP – the only person in Zambia mandated to make a decision whether to appeal or not. Predictably Muchenga refused to bulge despite numerous abusive editorial comments against him. He pointed out clearly that the appeal had no possibility of succeeding because of the various legal loopholes which the trial magistrate highlighted when acquitting Chiluba. But to LAZ and the enemies of Muchenga – that is working in cohort with the Executive Branch of Government.
When all is said and done, Muchenga comes out as a strongman who refused to be pushed into submission by evil forces who wanted to use him for their political battles against President Banda and his Government. The fainthearted fell for the trap and history will judge them as such.
For Chalwe Farai Muchenga, surely, history will judge him as one of the most outstanding DPP alongside late Mukelebai Mukelebai whose death will continue haunting those whose hands played a role in his removal.
Editor’s note: the assertions and opinions in this write-up belong to the author and readers wishing to rebut the same can send their response to: [email protected]