Nchito and Justice in Zambia

mutemboBy Charles Mwewa

The politics of the motherland have been interesting. But the politicians are systematically undermining the Rule of Law and whirling the Judiciary into rebel extravaganza. The arrest of Mutembo Nchito, the current Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) of Zambia, is turning Zambia perfunctorily into the reserves of zoo politics arbitrating jungle justice. If one is a stranger to the politics of the land they would think the Latin maxim of Fiat justitia ruat caelum (or Let justice be done though the heavens fall“) is taking root. They would have ample references to July 16th, 2002, when the Zambian Parliament lifted late President Chiluba`s immunity. They would also refer to March 15th, 2013, just over ten years after the fact, when President Michael Sata`s Patriotic Front (Pf) lifted former President Rupiah Banda`s immunity as well. The paradox is, however, that in both events the name of Mutembo Nchito was not remotely in association.


Was Mutembo Nchito a political whip who after his job is done is now being discarded? It was just after the 2001 presidential elections. Mwanawasa was the new sheriff in town, and to help him perform his job of law and order, the Nchitos were his easy choice. It all started with a betrayal. Mwanawasa graced his Tusk Force prosecution team with the Nchito Brothers, as they were called. This did not, definitely, go well with the then DPP, the late Mukelabai Mukelabai. In fact, Mukelabai had dismissed Mutembo Nchito from prosecuting Richard Sakala’s case, but Mwanawasa overruled contrary to Article 56 of the Zambian Constitution. By law, Mutembo Nchito had no mandate to prosecute on behalf of the Zambian government, it was alleged, and its people because he was a private corporate lawyer. Mutembo Nchito himself became ratified as DPP under very disconcerting circumstances to replace Chalwe Mchenga, now a judge. Subsequently, Nchito became involved in all major cases backed by the government.


Zambia has not made political and economic progress because the same people have dominated public life for years. These same people keep making the same decisions, or lack thereof, which have taken the nation nowhere. There seems to be a curse of recycled manpower hovering above the Zambian panoply. Because it is the same people who make decisions that affect the nation, vengeance and vendetta rooms large. In fact, it seems the entire saga has its genesis in Kenneth Kaunda animosity against Frederick Chiluba. Kaunda, conveniently using the instruments of power at his disposal such as a One Party State, the Public Order Act and hijacking of all parastatal bosses as the “boss of bosses,” and etc., meted out on all his political “opponents” with vengeful venom. He maintained this kind of rule for 27 years. When Chiluba became president, he retaliated. His detention without trial under Kaunda was rewarded with detaining Kaunda on UFO allegations.


Then it was Mwanawasa. Fearing, with the help of Mutembo Nchito to some extent, that his “cabbage” tag would rub frenetically on his governed initiated a precedential immunity lifting politics. (Zambia is the only country in the 21st century to have lifted the immunity of its presidents twice – which is a shameful heirloom by itself). Sata was not any different from his predecessors; he targeted Rupiah Banda. The former president’s case is technically alive in courts. Banda himself is not immune from the politics of vengeance, either. In January 2015, he did the unthinkable. He ditched the MMD party under which he ruled Zambia for three years and joined the Pf party that defeated him just because he wanted to run away from prosecution from corruption and abuse of office allegations. President Lungu will be out of his mind to now let Banda go free. If President Lungu does otherwise, that would be the biggest betrayal of the Zambian people’s trust, ever.


Awful as this might seem, the targeting of Mutembo Nchito is the lowest the Zambian government has come on its integrity index. As stated above, Nchito’s DPP job had been controversial from the beginning. In some respect, some would be glad he is arrested. However, in a country that prides in the Rule of Law, the motivation cannot be this malicious. Just as in the appointment of the former chief electoral officer of the just-ended presidential by-election, Justice Mambilima, as Chief Justice of Zambia, President Lungu can do better to show leadership judgment, in the attempted arrest of Nchito the Pf government is again pontificating the rule of vengeful men. Newton Ng’uni has argued that he has a duty as a Zambian citizen to ensuring that laws are observed and respected by all regardless of their status in society. But this is fickle. Ng’uni is a former Finance Deputy Minister. Why it is that somehow under Mwanawasa and Sata Nchito was a saint and he has just turned into a demon now? And Nchito is not innocent, too. He is on record now trying to accuse the police of arresting people found loitering at night. He has now suddenly learned it is against people economic rights and freedoms. He did not voice out for the people before the Lungu administration came into power.


My dear countrymen, it is important for Zambia to understand four things. First, that the whole is always bigger than the sum of its aggregate parts. For over twenty years, the same people who have run Zambia have taken sane and vulnerable people for a ride. They assign each other to offices arbitrarily and they rule without any ideas for national transformation. They interpret the law to suit their own whims and caprices. They choose to obey some laws and disobey others. They change ministerial positions like undergarments. They vacillate from policy to policy like shifting shadows. They are not stable like weather. And at the end of the day, they come back to the electorate with the same lies expecting to be elected to the positions which only fatten their own bellies and not those of the children in the street or of the senior citizens in the villages. They are political chameleons who change party colours at will and subscribe to the politics of poverty. Does Zambia really need these kinds of people to rule?


Second, no matter what the motive is, the government should not be above the law. A DPP is a constitutional office. The person who occupies that office enjoys tenure regardless of how he was appointed and ratified. Contrary to Article 58 of the Zambian Constitution, a DPP can only be removed from office for incompetency or incapacity, neither of which applies to Nchito. If this witch-hunt succeeds, it will undermine both the constitution (which is the highest law of the land) and the will of the people. Tyranny of the majority and the majority of one, both do not have a place in democratic societies. If government or its stooges are allowed to abuse their powers by arbitrarily and unilaterally sanctioning removal of democratically constructed personnel from their positions, Zambia will begin to lose a grip on the fundamentals of modern political management and may be a liability in the community of nations.


Third, Zambian politicians should adhere strictly to the moral law of tolerance and love under God. As a Christian Nation, Zambia should be the best place on earth where people should be valued for who they are and given respect as citizens. When will Zambia begin a path towards healing rather than killing? When will the government begin to end the politics of vengeance and substitute it with one of penitence? When will ruling parties cease from using power as a means to settle political scores? I vouch that until the nation becomes a balm, its economic conditions will never retain calm. Unless we rise above hatred and revenge, law will be just a weapon in the hands of a government with legitimate power but with illegitimate ideas!


Fourth and last, where is President Lungu’s promise to the people that he would perpetrate what Sata began? When it was argued that he had no campaign platform, he said he would continue where Sata left. Now it is clear that he is undoing, and not continuing, what Sata started. For example, in his appointments, his position on mining and tax and his attempted arrest of Nchito, to mention but a few. Mr. President, is this continuing the legacy of President Sata or it is just too early to call? Zambians should be wise and demand that justice is done though the heavens should fall!


Charles Mwewa is author of the newly-released book, The Legacy of President Michael Sata: Allergic to Corruption and of Zambia: Struggles of My People.

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