By Sunday Chilufya Chanda
For justice to prevail, any case must be viewed through the pure unadulterated eyes of justice, rather than through the clouded lenses of any kind of prejudice.
The recent arrest of Honourable Ronald Kaoma Chitotela and his being charged with two counts of concealing properties believed to be proceeds of crime has understandably generated varied opinions and sentiments ranging from the studiously rational; to the emotionally charged and even the uttermost (and gutter most) outrageous.
At the end of the day, justice must prevail without fear or favour. By the same token, justice must prevail without prejudice or emotional manipulation.
Justice is not based on emotions or preconceived sentiment; it is based on facts presented before a court of law.
One of the most sacred principles in the Zambian criminal justice system is holding that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty. In other words, the prosecution must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, each essential element of the crime(s) charged.
Our justice system also ensures that, a person is considered innocent until proven guilty. The Zambian Constitution guarantees to every person “equal protection under the law.”
Consequently, under “the presumption of innocence”, an accused person is considered innocent unless proven guilty and this is expressed by the Latin maxim: _“ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat”_ (The burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies). It is a legal principle. Justice cannot be for one side alone, but must be for both.
However, people that have myopic minds and tunnel vision and who have vested interests and anti-government agendas like United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Mr Hakainde Hichilema will not see beyond their interests.
There is a lot to be taken into account in the administration of justice. Tragically, Mr Hichilema knows very little about governance, let alone the administration of justice as his chequered intra-party record shows.
It is outrageous though not surprising that people like Mr Hakainde who are prejudiced and carry predetermined positions on anyone linked to the ruling party have it all conveniently twisted. On one hand they want President Edgar Chagwa Lungu to follow the Anti-Corruption Act; yet on the on the other hand they are asking for the law to be applied only in one direction.
How can they be prodding the President of the Republic of Zambia to ignore what the constitution says about an accused being innocent until proven guilty? How bizarre!
They want the Head of State to use the law for Honourable Chitotela to be arrested yet they do not want the President to follow the same law under Part 3 under the Constitution, Article 18 which talks about an accused being innocent until proven guilty!
They should not conveniently forget the practical and live example President Lungu gave of one of his former ministers Hon Chishimba Kambwili whom he fired based on charges and how to date, the said former minister has not been convicted!
President Edgar Chagwa Lungu has demonstrated that he is magnanimous enough to allow his ministers to be arrested and charged, and he has remained true to his public undertaking of not interfering in the due process of the law.
We ask Mr Hichilema and his ilk: what’s wrong with allowing justice to prevail?
We believe in the rules of natural justice. If Honourable Ronald Chitotela’s continued occupation of office was to jeopardise investigations, certainly he would have been asked to go home. The same would apply in the event that his continued occupation of the office of Minister would have any bearing on a fair trial.
Why should Mr Hichilema want the Head of State to go against the Zambian constitution as well as the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11 which provides presumption of innocence and provides that the legal burden of proof is thus on the prosecution?
The fight against corruption is real, but Mr. Hichilema would like to trivialise it; Fighting corruption does not entail playing to the gallery nor does it entail abandoning the rule of law; Justice cannot be for one side alone, but it must be for both.
After all is said and done: the picture is infinitely bigger than Mr Hichilema’s remarkably finite understanding of justice.
The author is Patriotic Front Media Director At the Patriotic Front Secretariat Lusaka