(By Natalie Ngosa and Andrew Chileshe)
SKETCHLY Sacika says President Edgar Lungu’s principal private secretary Dr Simon Miti should not be protected by the system if he is guilty of the corruption related charges brought out at the time he served as Ministry of Health permanent secretary.
But Zambia National Students Union says the decision by magistrate Zulu to order the arrest of Dr Miti is highly suggestive.
Meanwhile, Alliance for Community Action executive director Laura Miti says Chief Justice Irene Mambilima should cite PF media director Sunday Chanda for contempt for attacking magistrate Exnorbit Zulu who ordered the arrest of President Edgar Lungu’s aide.
Dr Sacika, who is a former secretary to cabinet, said yesterday that Dr Miti should not be spared if he was involved in any criminal activities at the Ministry of Health. State House has said it has taken a ‘no position’ on the magistrates’ court’s order that Dr Miti should have his day in court for the theft of public funds from the ministry.
State House spokesperson Amos Chanda told The Mast in an interview that the arrest order was “very delicate” and “unprecedented”.
Last week, the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court ordered the arrest of Dr Miti “in the interest of justice” to answer to corruption related charges brought out at the time he served as Ministry of Health PS.
Choma-based magistrate Exnorbit Zulu, who was sitting in Lusaka, said it was not too late to present Dr Miti before court to also answer to the corruption-related charges.
Magistrate Zulu said this after convicting former Ministry of Health human resources officer Henry Kapoko and four others for theft of over K6.8 million public money when they were employees of the Ministry of Health at the time Dr Miti was permanent secretary.
He further said Dr Miti should answer to corruption charges because he was aware of what was transpiring in the ministry, although he feigned ignorance.
In reaction, Chanda said the situation was interesting because Dr Miti was not before the court that made pronouncements on him.
“He (President Lungu) has heard from a court judgment like any other. He hasn’t been briefed about what the matter is…what he has heard is that the magistrate has made a pronouncement that makes it appear like Dr Miti is a suspect. The President does not have that information that Dr Miti is a suspect, so he is waiting to receive information regarding this matter. What he has heard is nothing more than what has been seen from the pronouncement of the magistrate. The presidency has taken a ‘no position’ because the matter is very delicate and unprecedented,” said Chanda.
But Dr Sacika said if Dr Miti engaged in corrupt activities while at the Ministry of Health, he should not be shielded by the system.
“I read about Kapoko a long time ago in The Post Newspaper and I was surprised that the matter was still on. How could it take so long? What kind of justice is that? This thing started a long time ago and Dr Miti was permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health a long time ago…he is now at State House. Wow! We are talking about something that happened a long time ago. The bottom line is this; if there is any linkage between Miti and Kapoko’s activities…linkage that indicates that Miti was involved in Kapoko’s criminal activities, then the authorities must arrest him. If he is being protected by the system then that is unfortunate,” Dr Sacika said.
“But if there is no linkage between Miti and Kapoko’s activities, then the only thing that Miti could have done at that time was to resign and take full responsibility. Ministers, permanent secretaries should take full responsibility like they do in other countries. You cannot be a minister and something happens in your ministry and you say ‘no, it’s not me’. Your job as permanent secretary or minister is to ensure that nothing goes wrong in your ministry. That’s how it’s supposed to be. But it’s never like that in our country and in other African countries. We are not like bazungus [white people]…the bazungus resign. That’s what our people should be doing here. But we don’t do it here. We stick around. That is why our institutions never work because those responsible don’t assume responsibility for what goes wrong. We would rather sit and continue earning an income when things are collapsing before our eyes and we don’t take action.”
Dr Sacika said Dr Miti should only be arrested if at all he was involved in the criminal activities.
“When you are serving as permanent secretary and someone down the line steals, it doesn’t mean you are also guilty, unless you had connived. This is the matter for the investigative wings to investigate if he had been involved and arrest him. There are a lot of things that happen in ministries; people stealing, giving out information, and all. The best one heading a ministry, especially at permanent secretary level, can do if that kind of a thing happens is to resign because if you are permanent secretary you are expected to make sure that things in the ministry are run properly. That’s a moral issue. It is a criminal issue. If you are head of an institution and something terrible happens, you take responsibility not because you are guilty but because you feel morally obliged,” said Dr Sacika.
“If Kapoko was a senior personnel officer in the ministry and he stole millions of dollars while Miti was there, but he was not involved in the theft, morally, he should have resigned. If you are head of an institution and something bad happens, even if you are not directly involved, you must take full responsibility and resign. But very few Africans do that. I have never seen an African, let alone a Zambian who has resigned for taking responsibility for what somebody down the line did. I am afraid that is our nature. We don’t want to take responsibility for anything. But as regards criminality, if Dr Miti was not criminally involved in what Kapoko did, then why should he be called by the courts of law? But if he was, then the police or whoever investigated Kapoko should take him to court. They should investigate if there had been any linkage between Kapoko and Miti so that he is taken to court.”
But ZANASU president Misheck Kakonde said Dr Miti might not be given a fair trial.
“ZANASU considers the pronouncement by Choma-based magistrate Exnorbit Zulu, to order the arrest of Dr Simon Miti, a State witness highly suggestive that the court may already have found a prima facie case of corruption against a witness without the person having been heard,” Kakonde said.
“While our courts require our support in the quest to fairly adjudicate cases of corruption, ZANASU subscribes to the legal principle that judges and judicial officers ‘must not descend into the arena’ by taking sides in matters of litigation or engage into the messier parts of the courtroom debate. The High Court of Zambia, rightly guided in the 1973 case of Moses Mwenya vs the People where a magistrate directed clerk of the court to investigate the matter and to report his findings back to the magistrate, that ‘it is of little consequence that the magistrate in actual fact conducted the trial fairly and justly so long as right-minded people thought or might have thought that the trial magistrate on account of what went wrong prior to the commencement of the proceedings would be partial in the matter’.”
Kakonde said ordering the arrest and trial of a state witness was the role of the State through the office of the DPP.
He said courts should not be turned into investigative agencies.
“In ordering the arrest and trial of a state witness, the magistrate took upon himself the position of an accuser or alleger in a criminal matter, which role is supposed to be done by the State through the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP). We believe courts must not be turned into investigative agencies or assume the role reserved for the DPP in deciding whom must be investigated and taken to court to answer charges, no matter the gravity of the matters involved. It is clear that Dr Miti and any other person may not receive fair trial before the court when the court itself is one deciding who must be brought before it to answer criminal charges,” he said.
“ZANASU will continue to advocate for fair treatment of all persons, and clear separation of powers among all arms of government. Those who are tasked to take persons before the court must be allowed to independently do their job and the courts that are tasked to dispense justice must be encouraged to dispense justice both for the accuser and the accused, without taking sides.”
Meanwhile, Laura also said it was clear that President Lungu did not want to part company with his principal private secretary Dr Simon Miti.
“I am waiting patiently for Chief Justice Irene Mambilima to cite Sunday Chanda for contempt for the unapologetic personal attack on a magistrate for his ruling. Ma’am you have created a precedent with Bishop Mambo. There is no way you are silent on Sunday and you continue wearing your wig with honour. We wait,” stated Laura in her Facebook posting.
“It feels as though whenever PF media director Sunday Chanda comes out guns-blazing to defend someone, that person has been accused of doing something very injurious to the public good – the kind of which you would expect the President to act against. When, especially, it comes to defending those accused of mismanaging resources, Sunday will blatantly unsay things he has said before, break basic principles of democracy, and just generally enter destructive mode. Remember how, last week, a magistrate in his ruling against Henry Kapoko, said former health PS, Simon Miti, should be arrested because his finger prints were all over the Kapoko case – well Sunday has gone for that magistrate in shocking fashion. I guess with that, we know that President Lungu does not want to part company with Dr Miti who is now an aide at State House. We can safely conclude that, again, President Lungu will refuse to act against an individual accused of feeling free with public money. The President will remain characteristically quiet about the matter – well unless he blurts out something shockingly unplanned and unthought-through, at an airport somewhere.”
Laura stated that Chanda, likely to be joined by President Lungu’s special assistant for press and public relations Amos Chanda and his deputy Antonio Mwanza, would sing a song that insults Zambians’ collective intelligence while further destroying what was left of rule of law, in the country.
“Dora Siliya must be tuning her vocal chords too, to offer backing vocals to the Simon-Miti-must-not-be-arrested tune. As for the magistrate who was brave enough to touch an untouchable – I am waiting patiently for Chief Justice Irene Mambilima to cite Sunday Chanda for contempt for the unapologetic personal attack on a Magistrate for his ruling. Ma’am you have created a precedent with Bishop Mambo. There is no way you are silent on Sunday and you continue wearing your wig with honour. We wait,” said Laura.