EMBATTLED Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mutembo Nchito yesterday almost refused to enter into the dock and when he did it was only to sign a nolle prosequi in respect of himself which magistrate Lameck Mwale openly rejected.
Mr Nchito entered a nolle prosequi in favour of himself even before he could take plea in a case in which he has been accused of several offences including forging of court documents and obtaining a bank loan by fraudulent misrepresentation.
“This matter has raised a lot of interests and it is unprecedented that a DPP is called to appear before the court like a common criminal outside the territorial jurisdiction of where he lives. It is unprecedented that a constitutional office holder could be charged with cases before investigations. What is the safety of the DPP, judges and their tenure of office? With the powers vested in me, I have entered a nolle prosequi and I do not need to explain. The complainant is not helpless in this matter…I am exercising constitutional matters,” Mr Nchito said.
Earlier, the matter had failed to take off Mr Nchito as his lawyers had applied to the High Court to quash the proceedings through a stay but Judge Gertrude Chawatama rejected the application.
Mr Nchito who sat in the public gallery was forced to enter into the dock so that he could take plea and be arraigned on a number of charges but before he could plead, he entered a nolle prosequi saying: “I have the final word.”
Magistrate Mwale said: “I do not agree with you. This is novel. With due respect to your constitutional powers and without taking them away from you, you cannot be a judge in your own case.”
Magistrate Mwale had earlier ruled that it was inconceivable to imagine that Mr Nchito was going to grant the court consent so that he could be prosecuted and it was therefore important for him to take plea on the charges that did not need his consent so that the proceedings could start.
Mr Nchito accused the State of having orchestrated his prosecution, stating that he had been put in an exceedingly embarrassed situation as a serving DPP and that because of the nature of the case, he had been moved by article 56 of the Constitution to enter a nolle prosequi. There was a legal battle between Mr Nchito who had dispensed with his lawyers who included his older brother Nchima Nchito and lawyers representing Newton Ng’uni, the complainant, after the DPP in an act that surprised the court decided to take over his own case to defend himself.
Makebi Zulu, Gilbert Phiri and Keith Mweemba challenged Mr Nchito with legal arguments as he attempted to avoid taking plea. But Mr Nchito declared from the dock that he had “acquitted himself” in a matter he had refused to take plea.
Earlier, Mr Nchito after resisting to enter into the dock, disposed of the lawyers representing him including his brother, Nchima, a Mr C. Hamwela and Ngosa Simachela, and told the court that he would represent himself.
Mr Nchito said in exercise of his power vested in the Office of DPP, he had decided to a enter nolle prosequi and that there was no need for any explanation.
He said Mr Ng’uni was free to report alleged offences to the police so that they could investigate them since they have already shown interest to arrest him in disregard of the court. But Magistrate Mwale publicly told Mr Nchito that he could not agree with the DPP, stating that what had transpired in court had never happened and could only make a ruling on March 2, 2015. And Mr Nchito was made to unreservedly apologise to Makebi Zulu, Keith Mwemba and Gilbert Phiri for making disparaging remarks against the trio and the State stating that as a man of the court, he realized he was not supposed to demean lawyers. He said arguments that a nolle could only be entered after a plea was new to him and that according to the Constitution; the DPP has the powers to discontinue court proceedings at any stage. He said he would not get a fair trial and that the matter should be properly investigated and he would avail himself in the court when he would be summoned before it as he was a law abiding citizes.
Mr Nchito said allegations against him were entered not in his personal capacity but in public interest and wondered why they were pushing him to enter the plea.
… as Ngúni’s lawyers want tribunal against DPP
LAWYERS representing Newton Ng’uni, who has taken Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mutembo Nchito to court, have requested President Edgar Lungu to constitute a tribunal against the DPP for gross misconduct and misbehaviour.
Makebi Zulu, Keith Mweemba and Gilbert Phiri said following the events of yesterday when Mr Nchito as an accused and standing in the dock in the magistrates court, took over the case to prosecute himself and consequently entered a nolle prosequi in favour of himself, the DPP’s act was an abuse of authority of office and was itself gross misconduct sufficient to warrant the constitution of a tribunal.
This followed drama before Lusaka magistrate Lameck Mwale when Mr Nchito dispensed with his lawyers who included his older brother Nchima Nchito and demanded that he was going to represent himself and immediately entered a nolle prosequi in his own respect.
The act was immediately challenged by Mr Mweemba, Mr Zulu and Mr Phiri who described the decision by Mr Nchito as abuse of authority of office and requested Magistrate Mwale to state the case as it were.
The letter to President Lungu reads: “We together with Keith Mweemba Advocates and PNP Advocates have been retained by and act for Mr Newton Ng’uni.
‘‘Kindly note our interest: Not-withstanding our earlier application and following the events of the instant date in the Subordinate Court of the First Class wherein Mr Mutembo Nchito purportedly took over the proceedings against himself and subsequently purportedly to enter a nolle prosequi in favour of himself in a matter where he is an accused, we hereby wish to request that a tribunal be constituted to consider this single act of gross misconduct and misbehaviour.
This is an act of abuse of authority of office and is in itself gross misconduct sufficient to warrant the constitution of a tribunal,” Mr Zulu said.