Failure by the State to follow procedure led to the tribunal set up to investigate allegations of misconduct and impropriety leveled against suspended Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mutembo Nchito to cut short the proceedings this morning.
The three-man tribunal chaired by former Chief Justice Anil Silungwe was due to hear preliminary issues as to whether its proceedings should be heard in-camera or not but could not proceed after it was realized that proper procedure should have been that the respondent Mr. Nchito first gets formally served with the allegations.
Justice Silungwe, who sat with tribunal members former Chief Justices Matthew Ngulube and Justice Ernest Sakala, then adjourned the proceedings to Monday, 13th April after the State through Solicitor General Abraham Mwansa applied for an adjournment.
In his application for an adjournment, Mr. Mwansa told the tribunal that the State needed to add more allegations to the allegations before the tribunal and that it will need at least 7 days in which to do so.
Mr. Nchito however objected to the application by the State arguing that adjourning the proceedings will be unfair to him.
He contended that he was ready to proceed as he has issues he needed to address from the allegations already before the tribunal.
Mr. Nchito wondered how the State could turn around and request for an adjournment after constituting the tribunal as the appointing authority.
He said the matter had already attracted immense public interest and that it was more relevant not only for him alone as suspended DPP but for other constitution office bearers in the country.
But in response Mr. Mwansa stated that for the fact that lapses in following procedure were noted, proceedings of the tribunal had to be adjourned until such a time that Mr. Nchito is formerly served with the allegations.
Delivering ruling on the application, Justice Silungwe adjourned the hearing to the 13th of April on which date the hearing will proceed with the raising of preliminary issues with the media and members of public free to observe the proceedings.
Earlier before the lapses in procedure where noted, Mr. Nchito was allowed to raise preliminary issues in which he referred to the allegations leveled against him as incompetent and invalid.
Mr. Nchito argued that this is because the tribunal appeared to be a judicial hearing than an inquiry in that his removal from office as DPP is what the State seemed to seek.
He contended that this would therefore mean the tribunal would be impeaching the constitution which provides how a sitting constitution office bearer like the DPP should be removed.
But in response the State through the Solicitor General Mr. Mwansa contended that the nature of a tribunal that Mr. Nchito was appearing before has no room for raising preliminary issues with respect to the merit of the allegations.
He also argued that it was not the duty of Mr. Nchito to guide the tribunal as to whether the allegations before it were competent or not.