The embattled Director of Public Prosecutions Mutembo Nchito has taken the highly unusual measure of entering a nolle prosequi in his own case, and then electing to represent himself as defence counsel.
Lusaka Magistrate Lameck Mwale has however refused to admit the nolle until he finds out whether Nchito, who stands an accused in dock, can legally enter a nolle. The matter has since been adjourned to March 2 2015.
When the matter came up in the morning, a Mr. Hamweela applied for a hour adjournement so that Nchito’s brother and defence attorney, Nchima Nchito, would be able to attend.
It was later discovered that Nchima had made an application before Lusaka High Court Judge Getrude Chawatama to quash the new indictment, but Chawatama dismissed the application. When the matter resumed Nchima Nchito told the court that his client could not take plea because they had some constitutional issues to be raised.
The complainant team comprising Makebi Zulu, Keith Mweemba and Gilbert Phiri argued that the constitutional issues had not been raised and as such it was important that the DPP takes plea.
In his ruling, the Magistrate decided that Mutembo Nchito must take plea in seven of the nine charges that did not need consent from the DPP, and struck off two that needed the DPP’s consent. It was at this stage that Mutembo Nchito said he was going to represent himself.
He then said as DPP, he can take over any case. He then from the accused dock produced a nolle and gave it to the Magistrate. Prosecution lawyers then argued that there was no way Nchito could have entered the Nolle before taking plea. They further argued that Nchito was in the dock as Mutembo Nchito and not DPP. Magistrate Lameck Mwale then adjourned the matter to March 2 2015 to rule on the matter.
Nchito is facing 9 complaints of corruption-related criminal charges, including forgery, issuing of false documents, and abuse of authority in the form of issuing nolle prosequis against other individuals with known ties to him. Zambia Reports has obtained several documents which are believed to form part of the case evidence.
The complaint was originally brought before the Chongwe Magistrate by former Finance Minister Newton Nguni, however the Lusaka High Court later declared the arrest warrant null and void based on jurisdictional issues. Earlier this week, the complainant brought the case before the proper court and Nchito was summoned to plead his case today.
It is not yet known what the outcome of this nolle will be, or whether a DPP can interfere in a case in which he is named.
However this is not the first time that Nchito’s alleged conflicts of interest have raised questions. Last May, when a criminal contempt case came up against his ally and business partner, editor of the Post Newspaper Fred M’membe, Nchito personally took over the prosecution while at the same time his law firm served as defence counsel.