Harare, November 15, 2013 – Human rights activists have sneered at the appointment of former Attorney-General Johannes Tomana to the position of Prosecutor-General of the newly established National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
Tomana was on Wednesday sworn in as the Prosecutor-General by President Robert Mugabe to head the NPA, which under the new Constitution will be responsible for instituting and undertaking criminal prosecutions on behalf of the State, a task which was previously undertaken by the Attorney General ‘s Office.
The new constitution created a separation of mandates between the office of the Attorney-General and that of prosecution by the creation of the NPA, which reports annually to Parliament through the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
But ZLHR, the country’s leading defence group said it was regrettable that Tomana had been spared from being scrutinised as set out in the new Constitution after President Mugabe relied on some transitional provisions in the Sixth Schedule of the new Constitution, which provides that the current Attorney-General becomes the Prosecutor General without operation of the previously outlined requirements.
“Mr Tomana has therefore been saved and shielded from the constitutionally mandated process of public scrutiny, which is regrettable,” ZLHR said in a statement issued in response to the appointment of Tomana.
The influential human rights organisation said the new Constitution sets out a clear procedure for the appointment of a Prosecutor-General which includes advertising the post, allowing public nominations, and requiring public interviews of prospective candidates.
“This enhances the transparency of the appointment process, whilst contributing to ensuring the credibility and professionalism of the nominees through scrutiny of their record of service and past conduct,” ZLHR said.
However, ZLHR said it welcomes the implementation of the long overdue separation of the functions of the Attorney General and the NPA.
“This is a good practice that will allow for increased public scrutiny of, and accountability for, the actions of the prosecutorial authority,” ZLHR said.
The Irene Petras-led human rights group said it will nevertheless continue to monitor how Tomana carries out his mandated functions as he is constitutionally obliged not to act in a partisan manner, not to further the interests of any one political party or cause, not to prejudice the lawful interests of any other political party or cause, not to be an active member of any political party and not to violate the fundamental rights or freedoms of any person.
Tomana has publicly declared his allegiance to Zanu PF party together with some of the country’s serving security chiefs. The tenure of the former Attorney General during the coalition government of President Mugabe and former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was considered one of the many sticking and outstanding issues that resulted in regular wrangling among political parties to the power sharing deal.
MDC-T youth leader Promise Mkwananzi also criticised the appointment of Tomana as disappointing but not surprising.
“It reflects Zanu PF’s general intentions to maintain a hardline stance against MDC activists and other prodemocracy activists. It tells us of the cold days ahead of invoking the notorious section 121. But more importantly it is confirmation of what we have known Zanu PF: The recycling of the same old people from 1980 to date,” said Mkwananzi.