THE Annel Silungwe Tribunal investigating embattled Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has lambasted some private media houses for having created parallel tribunals and viciously attacking members of the tribunal and potential witnesses using uncouth language.
The tribunal decided that it would hold its proceedings in camera to avoid its standing from being eroded by whimsical attacks from any section of the media some of which have been known to freely attack potential witnesses and advocates.
Justice Silungwe stated that the members of the tribunal had not been spared from personalized and vicious attacks stating that the members had been victims of uncouth language from the first day the tribunal was appointed by President Edgar Lungu.
He ruled that some of the private media houses and some individuals seemed to have taken sides with little or no objectivity at all but were full of bias in their reportage.
He said the tribunal would hold its proceedings in camera to avoid the media houses that had taken sides from serving their own interests, reporting bias, instead of the tenets of integrity and nobility of the office of the DPP which was safeguarded by Article 58 of the Constitution.
Justice Silungwe stated that the unfair, inaccurate and uncouth attacks on the members of the tribunal was an affront to the integrity of the tribunal itself and holding the proceedings in camera would not only be protecting the integrity of the office of the DPP and the witnesses but would also safeguard the interests of justice.
“In the premises, we rule that the proceedings of this tribunal shall hereinafter be held in camera in order to safeguard the interest and reputation of the constitutional office of the DPP and to safeguard the interest of justice from being assailed by the unprofessional reportage by some section of the media,” Justice Sakala said.
He stated that when the tribunal’s work was concluded regardless of the advice that would be rendered to President Lungu as the appointing authority, Mr. Nchito’s integrity, as a lawyer would still need to be upheld and protected from unwarranted mud-slinging which could be occasioned by wrong perception created by the media.
He ruled that Mr. Nchito’s life did not begin and end as a DPP as he had a professional and private life and that it was therefore important that the individual interests of the Mr Nchito should not override the broader public interest of safeguarding the reputation and integrity of the constitutional office.
Justice Silungwe said although the State had submitted that it was not averse to conducting proceedings in public, it was the considered view of the tribunal that it was its duty to consider not only the interests of parties and witnesses but also the overriding interests of the public.
He stated that precedence had it that in Zambia tribunals constituted to probe allegations against constitutional office holders established that the tribunals had generally been conducted in camera and that the Annel Silungwe Tribunal was not going to depart from the procedure.
“Some examples of the said tribunals are the Judge Sunkutu tribunal, the Judge Katanekwa Tribiunal, Judge Barthlomeo Mumba Tribunal and the Mukelabai Mukelabai Tribunal. In the circumstances, there is no basis to warrant departure from the established procedure. We therefore are not ready to depart from the procedure that has served the country so well,” Justice Silungwe ruled.
Meanwhile, the tribunal has ruled that President Lungu had the authority to amend the terms of references of the inquiry as there was no authority that barred the Head of State from amending the terms of references.
Justice Silungwe said the tribunal had rejected the submission by Mr Nchito that a separate tribunal should be constituted to deal with the fresh allegations that had been levelled against him.
He ruled that the amendment of the terms of references by President Lungu was within the law and reaffirmed its commitment to conduct the proceedings independently to afford both parties a fair hearing.
The proceedings of the tribunal formally started its sittings in camera yesterday after a one month adjournment.