The Zambian government’s bid to amend the National Prosecution Authority Act of 2010 has encountered strong resistance from stakeholders and the legal community.
The proposed National Prosecution Authority (Amendment) Bill of 2023 aims to modify the composition and authority of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
Attorney General Mulio Kabesha presented the amendments to Parliament on behalf of the government.
However, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Public Protector, the Zambia Law Development Commission, and the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) have vehemently objected to the amendments, particularly the proposal to remove the DPP from their position as Chairperson of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions.
Hon. Clement Andeleki, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs, Human Rights, and Governance, is expected to present the amendments to the House and may convey the rejection of the Bill.
Nevertheless, Minister of Justice Mulambe Haimbe remains determined to pursue the proposed amendments, asserting that they received Cabinet approval.
Regarding the changes to the powers and autonomy of the DPP, the amendments seek to strip the DPP of their role as Chairperson of the Board of the Office of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions. These powers are akin to those held by the Chairperson of the Board of the Bank of Zambia.
Furthermore, these amendments may potentially infringe upon the Constitution, as Article 180 of the Constitution grants the DPP autonomy and independence.
The government intends to appoint a Board Chairperson for the Directorate of Public Prosecutions through the Minister of Legal Affairs.
In their submissions, the DPP Gilbert Phiri, Public Protector Caroline Sokoni, the Zambia Law Development Commission, and the Law Association of Zambia have all argued against compromising the position of the DPP by divesting them of powers within their constitutional office.
Quoting the Director of Public Prosecutions, Gilbert Phiri, he emphasized, “The position of the DPP should not be weakened or undermined by diminishing the powers vested in this vital office.”
Caroline Sokoni, the Public Protector, echoed these sentiments, stating, “Maintaining the independence and authority of the DPP is crucial for ensuring a fair and transparent prosecutorial system.”
The Law Association of Zambia raised concerns about the potential implications of the amendments on the integrity of the prosecutorial process and the rule of law.
It remains to be seen how the government will proceed in light of the strong opposition from stakeholders and legal experts. This contentious issue highlights the importance of preserving the independence and effectiveness of the Director of Public Prosecutions in upholding justice and combating corruption.