The rumour that 18 prisoners were killed at Mukobeko prison will not go away.
No amount of Public Relations will clear away the speculation. It will take a verification by an independent team to put the matter to rest.
The statement in Parliament by Minister of Home Affairs Edgar Lungu was neither convincing nor cogent enough to allay fears that something very significant and untoward took place at Mukobeko after the three prisoners escaped.
The very fact that the prison has now been virtually barricaded from all outsiders on the “ostensible” grounds of security concerns would seem to suggest that a very serious and sustained effort of covering up is in progress. Reports suggest that injured prisoners are being allowed to heal before visitors are allowed.
It is most unfortunate that we do not have a serious and engaged Human Rights Commission; otherwise they could have used their immense powers to investigate the matter on the very first day of occurrence.
In the absence of independent verification, lingering doubts and serious concerns will remain in the minds of most Zambians.
Justice with a face
The bail granted to South African Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius who is accused of murdering his girlfriend Reeve Steenkamp, 29, a model and law graduate with a very promising television career is illustrious.
It took magistrate Desmond Nair, close to 2 hours to deliver a very cogent, well reasoned and comprehensive judgment to arrive at the grant of bail. He quoted the law extensively and made reference to precedence to justify his final decision.
That judgment stands out in stark contrast with our own criminal justice system where bail is a function of much consideration including political influence. For example a prominent Lawyer and member of HH legal team Ken Mweemba was last week held in prison for a bailable offence because instructions for his incarceration came from “high-up”.
Police will detain at will, sometimes out of spite.
It shows that our criminal justice system is not about the law, nor indeed about the merits or lack of the same, but more about those who run the system and the circumstances under which they operate.
In essence our criminal justice system is a great lottery which lacks, consistency, predictability and indeed certainty.
That is why a number of individuals with political, commercial and social interests to protect use the system to advance their causes. Indeed this is one of the basis on which corruption has invaded our justice system.
It is very difficult to tell the outcome of a case, even where evidence is in preponderance or where no evidence exists at all. The outcome is dependent on the third force- an external interest.
Victims of the law will be treated differently. Sentences will be enhanced or mitigated on account of personal circumstances. The more nondescript the harsher the sentence.