The Post (Lusaka)

18 April 2002

Southern Africa: Mpamba Testifies in Muleya's Comesa Contract Case

THE government was angered by the perceived low performance of former COMESA director Dr. Kabeta Muleya by secretary general Erastus Mwencha, former commerce minister David Mpamba said yesterday.

Testifying in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) court of justice during continued hearing of COMESA former director of administration and finance Dr. Muleya's non-renewal of contract suit, Mpamba said the assertion was an insult to government.

He said in September 2000, Mwencha wrote to then commerce minister William Harrington complaining of Dr. Muleya's weaknesses. Mpamba said when he went to the ministry and became acquianted with the issue, he was not particularly happy with some statements reflecting that Dr. Muleya was merely seconded from the civil service and then confirmed but did not go through the normal rigorous selection of the COMESA secretariat.

He said this argument was unacceptable and weak because Dr. Muleya competed with other local permanent secretaries and others from other countries.

He said Dr. Muleya had served the government capably for 30 years as permanent secretary in different ministries where he adequately run financial and administrative issues.

Mpamba testified that this prompted him to write letters explaining the situation to his counterparts in other member states as well as to the chairman of the bureau arguing that these allegations were weak and unsubstantiated and did not warrant Dr. Muleya being sent on forced leave.

He said, he demanded that he returns to office immediately and that he be given chance to tell his side of the story at the Council of Ministers meeting held in Egypt, Cairo in May last year for the council to determine his renewal of contract.

Mpamba said Mwencha asserted that being seconded from civil service, Dr. Muleya has expertise in other areas but lacked professional qualifications in the very area he was charged with.

And during cross-examination, lawyer representing COMESA and Mwencha, John Sangwa, said it was against the Treaty for a minister to hear grievances of a national employed by COMESA.

The panel of judges, however, deemed Sangwa's line of questioning as being tantamount to asking the witnesses, interpretation of the law. Ruling in the matter has been set for Tuesday next week.

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