Goba job saga deepens

…Acting Prosecutor-General’s appointment stinks

GOVERNMENT deliberately disregarded Acting Prosecutor-General (PG) Ray Goba’s criminal record and recently appointed him to the post despite a clear constitutional stipulation that the office-bearer must have a proven record of probity or integrity. This means he must not have a criminal record.

By Kudzai Kuwaza

However, Goba, who served as Namibia’s deputy PG, was convicted in a Namibian regional court in 2002 for driving a vehicle on a public road with excessive alcohol concentration in his blood in contravention of Section 140(2) of the Road Traffic Ordinance 1967; failing to obey a road traffic sign in contravention of Section 101(1) of the Ordinance; and attempting to defeat or obstruct the course of justice.

Legal practitioners have questioned whether Goba is a fit and proper person for the PG’s job in light of his conviction for attempting to defeat or obstruct the course of justice.

In terms of Zimbabwe’s constitution, a PG must possess the same attributes as a Supreme Court judge.
A “fit and proper person”, according to the dictates of law, must satisfy a raft of ethical and professional attributes, in particular honesty and reliability.

Justice ministry secretary Virginia Mabhiza said on Wednesday that her ministry knew of Goba’s conviction when he was appointed to the post.

“Yes, we knew about it. It is part of material disclosure,” Mabhiza said.

Asked why Goba was appointed despite the conviction, Mabhiza replied: “The decision was not mine, so I cannot comment.”

This raises serious questions about the decisions made by President Robert Mugabe and Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is in charge of the Ministry of Justice, in appointing Goba. Their actions raise serious constitutional and ethical concerns over the issue.

Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) president Vimbai Nyemba on Wednesday said the professional association of lawyers “could” look into the conviction of acting Prosecutor General Ray Goba “as and when he reverts back to his private practice”.

Nyemba said the LSZ might investigate Goba’s conviction “if the need arises”, but ruled out doing so while he is in his current position as Acting PG. The PG is employed by the state.

“He is not registered with the Law Society. We do not preside upon him,” Nyemba said. “I have not seen the documents (in which he was convicted). We only read about it.”

Nyemba said if the LSZ were to investigate Goba’s case, it would look at the gravity of the conviction before making a decision.

She said under normal circumstances, cases of convicted lawyers are handled by the society’s disciplinary committee which makes recommendations to the board.

According to court documents, Goba’s conviction on the charge of attempting to obstruct or defeat the course of justice was premised on the allegation that he “knowingly tried to avoid the taking of a specimen of his blood within the statutory period of two hours by (a) refusing to furnish the law enforcement officers with the cellphone or telephone number of his legal representative before the specimen was taken; (b) attempting to escape while being transported in lawful custody to the hospital for the specimen to be taken; (c) attempting to escape from lawful custody at the hospital before the specimen was taken; (d) attempting by threats to intimidate the law enforcement officers not to investigate the alleged offence against him; and (e) refusing to submit to the taking of a blood specimen by the doctor when requested to do so”.

Goba was arrested at 2:15am on February 12 2000 by traffic police officers after he turned right in conflict with a directional arrow, leading to the chain of events which resulted in his conviction for attempting to defeat the course of justice.

Following his conviction, the Namibian government declined to renew his employment permit which lapsed on December 31 2010 after he failed to secure work and residence permits. At the time he was the chief director of Legal Services and International Co-operation in the Ministry of Justice.

Goba applied again for a work permit and a permanent residence permit to legitimise his stay in Namibia after the termination of his contract, but learnt on February 15 2011 that both applications had been rejected.

He appealed to the Minister of Home Affairs and Immigration on February 18, explaining that his last contract of employment had come to an end unexpectedly and pointed out that he had also appealed against the refusal of permanent residence and was awaiting a decision in respect thereof.

He also filed a High Court application seeking the review and setting aside of the decisions taken by the Immigration Selection Board to deny him permanent residence and employment permits.

In addition, Goba sought an order that he be entitled to carry on his profession in Namibia and another order that the Director of Immigration issue him a permanent residence permit. He indicated that he wanted to work with Namibian law firm Shikongo Law Chambers. However, Justice Raymond Heathcote dismissed his application, citing his conviction.

“As a legal practitioner, the applicant would have known that in terms of Section 39(2)(f)(i) of the Immigration Control, Act 1993, (hereinafter ‘the Act’) any person who has been convicted in Namibia of any offence specified in Schedule 1 of that Act, shall be a prohibited immigrant in respect of Namibia. Schedule 1 of the Act includes the offence of ‘defeating or obstructing the course of justice’ and any attempt to do so,” said Justice Heathcote.

Goba told the Zimbabwe Independent last week that his bosses were aware he was a convicted criminal.

“I have nothing to hide. Before I took up this post, I disclosed this issue to my superiors. If they appointed me after I revealed this, then surely, I must have done something good in Namibia where I served with distinction,” he said. “The world is full of malicious people. Why did they provide this information to you (the media) and not to the President (Robert Mugabe) or the Minister of Justice? Those who are questioning my suitability for office are entitled to their opinion, but if a minor traffic violation is used as a yardstick to determine one’s suitability for office, then no one would be appointed in any office anywhere.”