ALL CRIMINAL cases in the magistrates’ courts countrywide have been adjourned by the Registrar of Lusaka High Court Mathews Zulu for a week to pave way for the operationalization of the newly established National Prosecution Authority (NPA).
And there was confusion at the Lusaka Magistrates Court complex yesterday as the sudden announcement of the week-long adjournment of cases caught lawyers, the police, accused persons, prison officers and the general public by surprise.
The adjournment came into effect following Government’s decision to transform the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) into an independent National Prosecution Authority (NPA) to ensure the smooth re-assignment of the affected personnel.
Public Prosecutors from Zambia Police Service, Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) and Immigration Department would now be under the NPA which would be led by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The memo announcing the changes has been addressed to the Principal Resident Magistrate of Kabwe, Mongu, Solwezi, Kasama, Chipata and Mansa including the Senior Resident Magistrate of Chinsali.
The cancellation is effective from February 29 through to March 4 and was also addressed to all Chief Resident Magistrates from Lusaka, Ndola, Kitwe and Livingstone who have been requested to notify all the magistrates under their jurisdiction to adjourn all criminal cases, adding that during this period all magistrates should deal with civil matters that have largely remained unattended to.
There was congestion at the court premises in Lusaka as suspects and sympathizers were left stranded following the announcement of the adjournment of criminal matters.
Prosecutors and lawyers were seen moving up and down trying to find out what was going on upon hearing of the announcement.
Under the new arrangement, all criminal prosecutions would now be vested in the NPA to operate under the National Prosecution Authority Act, no . 34 of 2010.
Prior to the enactment of the NPA Act , the DPP used prosecutors from other law enforcement agencies to prosecute criminal cases in subordinate courts at district level. One of the accused persons caught unawares yesterday was former minister of Information and Broadcasting Ronney Shikapwasha who described the development as saddening.
Mr Shikapwasha told journalists at Lusaka Magistrates Court where he appeared in a case in which he is alleged to have abused his authority of office that the adjournment was unfair as justice delayed was justice denied.
Mr Shikapwasha said the adjournment could have been done in a different way by notifying people in advance as many had travelled from distant places to attend court.
He said it was sad that the announcement was done suddenly when people least expected it. He said the decision had left many people in an awkward situation as they did not know what do.
According to Government, the formation of NPA would promote and enforce internationally comparable practices and standards for prosecutors and ensure rules and guidelines for professional ethics were responsive to effective administration of criminal justice.
NPA would also implement an effective prosecution mechanism that would maintain the rule of law and contribute to fair and equitable criminal justice and effective protection of citizens against crime.
It would also appoint State advocates and prosecutors and promote appropriate standards of practice by State advocates and prosecutors in criminal prosecution.
NPA would also conduct research into various disciplines of law to study the role that prosecution mechanisms should play in establishing effective rule of law and human rights to bring the law in line with developments and best practices of other countries.