THE decision to open any part of the Silungwe tribunal to the public was a serious mistake.
It has given Mutembo Nchito and his business partner Fred M’membe an opportunity to vilify and scandalize people who have no opportunity of responding.
It is not possible for President Lungu to respond and explain his justification for appointing the Tribunal to which he has given specific terms of reference. He cannot even personally explain why some charges have been removed or why others have been added.
He must watch from the sidelines because responses must come from the State as represented by the Attorney General and his team who are rearing to proceed but cannot do so because a sense of balance must be maintained.
The two former Chief Justices Ernest Sakala and Mathew Ngulube are in an invidious position as they have to sit impassively as Mutembo Nchito harangues them with the certain knowledge that whatever he says, whatever allegation he makes and whatever aspersions he will cast- have room and will be published in the Post newspaper.
Neither the President, the judges nor indeed the tribunal chairman Judge Silungwe, who are the subject of attack can defend themselves, however strongly they feel.
This is the kind of territory Fred and Mutembo are very familiar with. They do not play by the rules but instead tackle argumentum ad hominem – tackle the persons and advance all manner of fallacies, suggesting for example that in the exercise of his powers as DPP he was not accountable to any authority. This is nonsense and he knows it because the law cannot allow such an absurdity. The Constitution itself makes every public officer with such powers accountable and where doubts arise courts of law are empowered to interpret.
Mutembo can afford to make these fallacies because they have previously worked in bringing down such people as Mukelabai Mukelabai and other more ranking senior and eminent citizens.
That is why Mutembo can state without shame that awarding himself a nolle prosequi should not be challenged on a technicality. He knows this is utter rubbish, but nobody will respond to him in real time and even if they did the impact will be minimal. More importantly the responses, if any will be tempered and measured for correctness and propriety.
The nearest the State came to doling out in equal measure this week was the hint that Mutembo’s tirade was wild. To many people this was very tame.
In his heydays Mutembo prosecuted in the alleged name of the State and yet today he is demanding to know his accusers, having forgotten the answer he gave his victims namely that it was the faceless state complaining-how can he forget.
The intention of the tirade was to create an impression that he was a victim of circumstances. Sadly there are many gullible citizens that have fallen for this ruse.
There is no doubt that the original intention of holding administrative tribunals in camera is for the protection of the office, in this case it may have to go beyond to include the protection of those who may be presiding and indeed who may give evidence.
Witnesses must feel comfortable that Mutembo, who is defending himself, will not embarrass them in a manner that will be published in full in the newspaper.