Zambia’s opposition movement notched a major victory this week as the Director of Public Prosecutions Mutembo Nchito filed a noelle prosequi against Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) President Nevers Mumba.
Mumba, who was arrested on Christmas Eve and later charged with “disorderly conduct” and accused of conducting himself in “a manner likely to cause breach of peace” while distributing christmas gifts to needy citizens, told reporters outside the courtroom that the DPP had pulled the case because the government was worried about its conduct being monitored by visiting investigators from the Commonwealth.
Other opposition leaders such as Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND) have also faced repeated arrests and trumped up charges awaiting trial before the courts.
The DPP’s decision to back down from prosecuting Dr. Mumba represents the first setback to the PF government’s efforts to tame the opposition.
Last month, Dr. Mumba was one of several opposition leaders to attend a press conference in Johannesburg which presented a report to the Commonwealth requesting investigation of alleged rights abuses.
“If I had constitutional powers to stop that nolle, I could have stopped it. I could have done,” Mumba told The Post Newspaper. “This is the more reason why we went to the Commonwealth so that this government can be questioned on their treatment of opposition political parties and now they are throwing utuma (some) nolle around because they know the Commonwealth is here to question them. They want them to see that they are not as evil as they are.”
According to the Daily Nation, Dr. Mumba challenged President Michael Sata to attempt to try the case: “in fact, I would have loved President Michael Sata himself who was sending Police officers to come and arrest me to come and apologize to me, because these arrests are just aimed at incarcerating and intimidating the opposition.”
Before his arrest on Christmas Eve, Dr. Mumba had been arrested on two previous occasions within the previous month, while his party, the MMD, has faced a de-registration attempt by the ruling party along with a dramatic confrontation with the party’s own former National Secretary Maj. Richard Kachingwe, who attempt to dissolve Mumba’s presidency of the party.
Other opposition sources say that they plan to confront DPP Nchito over the matter of the visiting Malawian judge Lovemore Chikopa, who has remained in country at the taxpayers expense despite there being no court order allowing the formation of the judicial review committee he is meant to chair. The purpose of said judicial review was the removal of judges and a justice who had ruled against Mr. Nchito and his business party Fred M’membe, editor of the Post, requiring them to repay a $4 million debt to a state-owned bank.