THE race to succeed Prosecutor-General (PG) Ray Goba has been plunged into chaos after it emerged this week that President Emmerson Mnangagwa has rejected the three front-runners for political reasons and requested the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to submit three new names amid intense jockeying for the post.
BY ANDREW KUNAMBURA
Following the completion of public interviews in November last year, the JSC submitted the names of the top three performers to Mnangagwa for consideration as required by law, with former principal law officer Calvin Mantsebo topping the list of 10 candidates.
Former student activist Tinomudaishe Chinyoka and president of the Law Society of Zimbabwe Misheck Hogwe came second and third respectively.
The other seven participants are: Kumbirai Hodzi, the current acting prosecutor-general, former deputy prosecutor-general Florence Ziyambi, former legislator Jessie Majome, former Bulawayo High Court judge Maphios Cheda, former principal law officer in the Ministry of Justice Noria Mashumba, as well as Harare lawyers Edmund Marondedze and Wendy Chingeya.
Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Virginia Mabiza confirmed in a telephone interview on Wednesday that Mnangagwa had asked for new names.
“The story is actually true. That’s all I can say,” she said, refusing to reveal more detail.
Sources from the National Prosecution Authority and government said heavy political shadow-boxing was delaying the appointment although interviews were done two months ago.
According to section 259 (3) of the constitution, the prosecutor-general is appointed from the list of candidates recommended by the JSC.
Sources in the Justice ministry said the JSC is under political pressure from Zanu PF, which wants to influence the process.
Mnangagwa, sources said, ruled out Mantsebo — the top performer during the public interviews — on the basis that very little was known about him, while Chinyoka was discredited for his previous association with the opposition MDC.
His reservations about Mantsebo and Chinyoka effectively meant that Hogwe would be the automatic choice, but influential senior officials from the Justice ministry opposed his appointment.
While some senior ministry officials, who include Mabhiza, prefer Hodzi, there is another group in government which is pushing for Cheda.
However, there are reservations against Cheda, arising from a land grab scandal which saw a pressure group known as AR from the Oshakati town in northern Namibia where he serves as a judge, organise protests against him last year after he was controversially allocated a plot by the town council.
The pressure group alleged corruption, but the case died down after the Namibian government leapt to his support.
“The issue is that the President had indicated that he knew very little of Mantsebo since he has been working as director of prosecutions in the Anti-Corruption Commission of Sierra Leone since 2003.
“Reservations were expressed about the suitability of Chinyoka given his previous political associations. So the president relayed this back to the JSC for further input but it seems there is now a fierce fight over who should be appointed because it appears Hogwe is not preferred by some powerful people at the Justice ministry and other government arms,” an official said.
Sources further said Mnangagwa called a short meeting on December 5 to try and address the issue.
The brief meeting, held at his Munhumutapa offices, was attended by Chiwenga, Chief Justice Luke Malaba, Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, Justice secretary Mabhiza, secretary of the JSC Walter Chikwanha and senior officials from the Office of the President.
At the meeting, sources said, Mnangagwa asked them to propose the way forward, starting with Malaba.
Chiwenga remained silent throughout the meeting, according to sources. “Malaba was forthright. He simply said they did their part and everything now lay in his hands,” a source who attended the meeting said.
Mabhiza is said to have suggested that Mnangagwa should consider even those that fell outside the top three, including Hodzi.
Malaba reportedly objected to Mabhiza’s suggestion of Hodzi, reminding the meeting that he had actually finished seventh out of the 10 interviewed.
“In the end, the meeting did not resolve anything. It ended with the President saying he would be making further consultations before he makes the appointment,” the source said.
Malaba is the one who took the task of submitting the names of the three topmost performers during the interviews.
In an interview with the Independent, Ziyambi said Mnangagwa will appoint his preferred candidate “when the right time arrives”.
“I don’t have any idea when he is going to make the appointment. The process is such that when the interviews are done, the president is given a list of three names from which he would then make his appointment. He will, in doing so, use his own discretion and the constitution doesn’t specify that the appointment should be made within a month or two. He is committed to the constitution and constitutionality and therefore he will make that appointment when the right time arrives,” Ziyambi said.
Asked about the December 5 meeting, Ziyambi said: “We hold so many meetings on a regular basis and I don’t quite remember which one you are talking about.”
The justice minister denied knowledge of factional fights and also refused to discuss the issue of Mnangagwa’s request for new names.
“I don’t know of those issues but what I can say is that the President is not obligated to take advice on who he should appoint. So if anyone could be trying to influence that decision, it could be a futile attempt,” he said.
Goba was given the job after the red flag had been raised against him over his suitability to hold the office due to his criminal conviction in Namibia. He was fired last year over the Namibian cases.