The tribunal constituted to investigate allegations of wrong- doing by suspended Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mutembo Nchito should ensure that witnesses who testify are protected from malicious media which will go all the way to discredit them to ensure that the findings of the inquiry are frowned upon, civil rights activist Brebner Changala has warned.
“This issue of whether to open up or have a closed tribunal is a double-edged sword. I would have loved an open tribunal but my worry is the witnesses. Mutembo Nchito is working with an interested private media and the paper will try by all means to discredit the witnesses,” he said.
President Edgar Lungu has constituted a tribunal headed by former Chief Justice Annel Silungwe to inquire into allegations against Mr Nchito.
Other tribunal members are former Chief Justices Matthew Ngulube and Enerst Sakala with the secretary being Matthews Zulu.
Mr Changala reminded Zambians on how the Post Newspapers has treated former deputy minister of Finance Newton Nguni’s lawyers in the court matter in which he arraigned Mr Nchito on allegations of fraud and forgery in both Chongwe and Lusaka magistrate court.
He explained that Mr Nchito’s business partner, Fred M’membe, ‘‘has gone miles discrediting Mr Nguni’s lawyers’’ instead of writing about the substance of the allegations.
Mr Changala said Zambians should understand that the tribunal inquiring into the allegations of misconduct against Mr Nchito was special as it signalled the ‘‘prosecution’’ of the national prosecutor.
He said because of the importance of the assignment at hand, the tribunal sittings and its witnesses should be protected from malicious media.
“Honestly, there is drama in the media. An interested private media whose time has come will not just perish like that. But the tribunal should find a way of protecting the witnesses so that they are not intimidated by an interested media,” he said.
On Monday, Chief Justice Irene Mambilima swore in members of the tribunal and advised that the members accord all participants a fair hearing.
Tribunal secretary however announced that the inquiry would hold its sittings in private at Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka.
On Wednesday, Mr Nchito wrote to the tribunal demanding that the sittings should be held in public as the allegations against him were already in public domain.
But Lusaka lawyer, Sakwiba Sikota, disagreed with Mr Nchito saying it would not be the first time for a DPP to have his tribunal sitting in camera as precedent was already set.
Mr Sikota said Mr Nchito should remember that the tribunal he instigated against former Director of Public Prosecution Mukelabai Mukelabai (late) was held in camera at Mulungushi International Conference Centre.
The tribunal has set April 1 for preliminary applications, which will be open to the public, before the commencement of the sittings on dates to be announced later.