The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) says it is engaging private prosecutors to expedite prosecution of a backlog of cases it is handling.
Director of Public Prosecutions Masauko Chamkakala disclosed in a WhatsApp interview on Wednesday that he had discussions with Minister of Justice Titus Mvalo where, among other issues, they talked about the overall capacity of the department and agreed to beef up the numbers and experience on a short-term basis.
Said Chamkakala: “Factors affecting us are the low staffing levels in the department, and of course, the backlog in courts.
“Complexity of cases isn’t really an issue at the moment.”
Asked whether the office has prioritised any cases to prosecute this year, Chamkakala said: “We have not specifically lined up cases. Just that we believe with added numbers, we will be able to handle more cases this year.”
Chamkakala: Complexity of cases isn’t really an issue
He estimates the vacancy rate of technical staff in his office at 65 percent.
While Chamkakala did not confirm the names of private prosecutors his office is hiring, a source told this reporter that the DPP plans to hire Kamudoni Nyasulu, former Ombudsman Enock Chibwana and lawyer George Liwimbi, among others.
Former DPP Steven Kayuni, who is Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Homeland Security, has also been tasked to take up police cases to the court, said the source.
Liwimbi could not be reached yesterday while Chibwana said he was yet to be communicated on the matter. But Nyasulu said: “There are consultations going on about this engagement. But I am sure the DPP will inform the nation and respond to all the queries at the appropriate time. I do not have authority to speak on government programmes.”
Nyasulu is a prominent prosecutor who from 2013 successfully secured convictions as a lead prosecutor for the State in all his Cashgate cases. In 2015, he was assigned to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to help prosecute specific cashgate cases before he was replaced by Chibwana.
Nyasulu came into the limelight in 1996 when, as DPP, he prosecuted founding president Hastings Kamuzu Banda, his confidante Mama Cecilia Kadzamira and veteran politician John Tembo in the Mwanza murder case.
Meanwhile, the source further said the DPP has informed his team that in readiness for the part-time prosecutors, the department will review all inactive cases.
While describing the vacancy rate as a serious issue, the source said there are more than seven senior State advocates in the DPP’s section in Lilongwe, four in Blantyre and one in Mzuzu.
Above the senior State advocate is the principal State advocate, and according to the source, there are only two people on this position, one in Mzuzu and another in Blantyre.
“From here, there is the position of chief State advocate and there is one each in Blantyre, Mzuzu and Lilongwe,” said the source who claimed that people were not being promoted to principal State advocate or to chief State advocate despite staying long on lower positions.
The source said more than 12 lawyers were recruited two years ago as senior State advocates, the entry point in the office of DPP, but they were recruited on a non-established status.
“Some of our colleagues have left and joined the Judiciary. This is frustrating and contributing to low morale and low staff levels,” said the source.
Mvalo did not pick our calls while Chamkakala did not respond to claims that people were not being promoted to the cited positions.
Cases the office of the DPP is handling include the fuel van case involving former Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority chief executive officer Collins Magalasi and business person Dorothy Shonga who were found with a case to answer and the Malawi Electoral Commission case where some officers were found with a case to answer on perjury.
Others are the K2.5 billion alleged fuel theft at Electricity Generation Company, murder of journalist Nomsa Mkandawire, the cement-gate case involving former president Peter Mutharika’s bodyguard Norman Chisale and former Malawi Revenue Authority deputy director general Roza Mbilizi and the Salima Sugar Company case.
President Lazarus Chakwera appointed Chamkakala as DPP to replace Kayuni on January 8 2023. The latter had a strained relationship with Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) director general Martha Chizuma, a situation said to have affected prosecution of some corruption cases.
Strained relations between the ACB and the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) offices came to the fore after the bureau publicly accused the DPP’s office of withholding consent to prosecute cases on concluded investigations.
At one point, the former DPP also accused the bureau of acting in isolation, a development he said led to the arrest of suspects that were supposed to be State witnesses in other cases his office was prosecuting.
Parliament subsequently amended the Corrupt Practices Act to remove the requirement for the ACB to seek consent from the DPP to prosecute cases.