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Military takes over prosecuting authority

THE security sector has virtually taken over the operations of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), as we reveal today that 160 military officers, constituting almost three-quarters of the staff in the Prosecutor-General’s Office, have been seconded from the army, air force, police and prison services to the civilian body.

By Owen Gagare/Kudzai Kuwaza

The NPA is a constitutional body which institutes criminal proceedings on behalf of the state.

It came into being in July 2014 after President Robert Mugabe signed the NPA Act into law, paving way for the operationalisation of the prosecuting authority which used to be part of the Attorney-General’s Office. The militarisation of the NPA, which began under the tenure of suspended PG Johannes Tomana, has strained relations between the security personnel and civilians who are against the command-style administration now in place at the body.

Information gleaned by the Zimbabwe Independent shows that the security sector is in charge of administration, human resources, information technology systems, secretarial work and procurement at the NPA.

Senior military officers deployed at the NPA include Colonel Solomon Siziba, who is the director of administration, Major Levy Msipa (administration and finance executive), Captain Cleopas Mapfumo (administration manager), Major Garikai Manyeruke (human resources executive) and Captain Callisto Chafadza (human resources manager).

The information technology department is run by an M Chirau from the Air Force of Zimbabwe.

Several other officers from the security sector are also employed in the department.

Three senior prison officers, namely J Mbika (stores manager), T Zhou (records and information assistant), D Dambudza (administration assistant) and S Chikosha (driver) are also seconded to the NPA.

In addition, typists, drivers and personal assistants to the PG and other senior NPA officials were seconded from the army, police and prison services.

The officers add to 127 non-civilian prosecutors from the police, prisons and army, who are on the NPA’s roll call.
In June, the NPA spokesperson, Allen Chifokoyo, defended the militarisation of the NPA, arguing they were meant to assist the PG in setting up and operationalising the establishment. However, he gave the impression there were only three soldiers at the institution.

A legal expert with knowledge of the goings-on at the NPA told the Independent the deployment of the military was unlawful. The lawyer said section 213 of the Constitution, which deals with the deployment of the military, states that the President of Zimbabwe as commander-in-chief can only deploy soldiers “in defence of Zimbabwe; in support of the police service in the maintenance of public orderor in support of the police service and other civilian authorities in the event of an emergency or disaster”.

“It is clear that as long as soldiers are not engaged primarily in their normal and ordinary day-to-day duties as provided for by the constitution, any deployment of soldiers not sanctioned by the President is illegal,” said the legal expert.

“Deployment encompasses engagement in civilian institutions. However, assuming that the President deployed soldiers to the NPA, the former was enjoined by the Constitution of Zimbabwe to inform parliament in terms of section 214.”

The section states that when the Defence Forces are deployed in Zimbabwe to assist in the maintenance of public order or outside Zimbabwe; “the President must cause Parliament to be informed, promptly and in appropriate detail, of the reasons for their deployment and … where they are deployed in Zimbabwe, the place where they are deployed”.

He, however, said: “A reading of the parliamentary Hansard has not shown anywhere where the President has informed parliament that a troop of so many soldiers were deployed to the NPA. What that means is that the President has not deployed any soldier to the NPA.

“In view of the de facto deployment of the defence forces to the NPA by whoever has such de facto powers, the question begging an answer is why militarism in a peaceful country such as ours?”

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs permanent secretary Virginia Mabiza said yesterday although they appreciated the need to phase out military personnel from the NPA, it could not be done overnight.

“Can you imagine phasing out three quarters of the NPA overnight? It would cripple the institution,” Mabiza said.

“We will phase out the military personnel gradually with people who are not in the military. The NPA is a new creation and it is impossible to just wake up and comply (with the constitution) within such a short space of time.”

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