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‘NPA staffed with unqualified soldiers’

ALMOST half of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) personnel — mostly seconded from the police, air force, army and prisons — are unqualified for their job, thereby compromising the justice delivery system while factionalism is also rampant in the crucial institution, acting Prosecutor-General (PG) Ray Goba has revealed.

Wongai Zhangazha

Goba made the revelation on Monday during public interviews to select Zimbabwe’s next PG. The interviews were conducted by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) chaired by Chief Justice Luke Malaba.

The post fell vacant after former PG Johannes Tomana was fired early this year for incompetence and misconduct.

Six candidates were interviewed for the post while Peter Mufunda was disqualified after it was discovered that he had not practiced as a lawyer for the required 10 years. He will only reach the milestone in November.

Those interviewed were Goba, Charles Chinyama, Misheck Hogwe, Wilson Manase, Tecler Mapota and Florence Ziyambi.

After deliberating on the performance of the candidates, the JSC will forward three names to President Robert Mugabe, who will then choose one.

Asked by JSC commissioner Justice Happias Zhou what difference he had made since being appointed acting PG in July last year, Goba said he had made progress on a number of fronts although he is battling to introduce a new structure at the NPA.

“I am managing to improve the public relations in the office. I have ensured that there is improved performance. For example, at the High Court and improved relationship between judiciary and ourselves, ironing out tensions between judges and prosecutors throughout the country … I am still pushing for the approval of the structure of the NPA. I just hope Treasury will approve a minimum of our request, but we keep knocking on the door,” Goba said.

“About 46% are seconded staff with no law degrees. Some are working on getting degrees, which is a good thing, but the majority of the people do not have required qualifications; they are just seconded to assist. I am worried if the Constitutional Court makes a decision, what will happen? So far 32 members of staff have resigned or died without any replacements. I am, however, grateful because without this seconded staff, our services would have been hamstrung.”

The Constitutional Court is still to give its ruling on an application by the Zimbabwe Law Officers’ Association (Ziloa) challenging the constitutionality of the militarisation of the NPA. The late retired Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku reserved judgment in 2014.

Asked by JSC commissioner Priscilla Madzonga to comment on the calibre of prosecutors at the NPA, Goba said the majority lacked the requisite skills and he suggested that the NPA should recruit law graduates.

“We have prosecutors working under very difficult circumstances. We rely mostly on prosecutors who come through other systems most of which do not have law degrees but are appearing before learned judges. Is it a proper thing? Imagine in a court how can a lawyer call a prosecutor ‘my learned friend’? NPA must have lawyers,” Goba said.

“We have several universities that offer law degrees in the country. We have students benefitting from presidential scholarships in South Africa some (of) who are studying law. After they graduate most of them have no jobs. These are some of the people we should employ. We should invest in our youths.”

Goba also highlighted during the interview that there were divisions within the NPA after he was asked by a JSC commissioner, chief magistrate Mishrod Guvamombe, whether he had come across “work factionalism”.

“Yes, in Zimbabwe only. I think the situation is as much a result of leadership deficit than it is of individuals who belong to various factions. NPA must operate as one entity.
I noticed that some people are answerable to this one while others are answerable to that one. I have not seen this in all the places I have worked but regrettably seen this in Zimbabwe,” said Goba, adding that the divisions were sensitive and needed to be handled in a professional manner.

Goba has worked in the United States of America, Namibia, Scotland and Zimbabwe.

The militarisation of the NPA has caused discomfort among some in government with the G40 faction of Zanu PF accusing Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who oversees the Ministry of Justice, of seconding personnel to advance his faction’s causes.

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