PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa fully exercised his constitutional prerogative in appointing new Prosecutor-General (PG) Kumbirai Hodzi without giving in to political pressure, secretary for Justice Virginia Mabhiza has said.
Mabhiza also denied reports she personally played a role in Hodzi’s appointment, saying the process was solely conducted by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).
Following the completion of public interviews in November last year, the JSC submitted the names of three top performers to Mnangagwa for consideration as required by law, with former principal law officer Calvin Mantsebo topping the list of 10 candidates. Former student leader Tinomudaishe Chinyoka and president of the Law Society of Zimbabwe Misheck Hogwe came second and third respectively.
Mnangagwa rejected the three and called for new names. The JSC then submitted the names of Maphios Cheda, who had come fourth in the interviews after scoring 65% along with former MDC legislator Fungai Jessie Majome and Hodzi who both got 53% and were tied on fifth position.
In an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent this week, Mabhiza said everything was done in accordance with provisions of the constitution.
“The President may decline to appoint any candidate from that initial list as the appointment is subject to section 180 (3) of the constitution. This section gives the President an unfettered discretion to decide upon the initial list so submitted. He is at liberty to reject the initial list of persons and require the Judicial Service Commission to submit a further list of three persons. Grounds upon which the President may decline range from cases such as misappropriation of public or trust funds, dishonesty, any conduct of a criminal nature or any other grounds which may be deemed fit and proper hence such a person is considered to have failed security vetting.”
The chief justice then gave him a further list of qualified candidates and the President was to appoint from that list. It is only from the second list that the constitution removes the President’s discretion and binds him to select one person from the said new list. Our interpretation of qualifying is very simple and literal. Where 10 people have been interviewed, number 1, 2 and 3 make the first list. 4, 5 and 6 make the second list. It’s very transparent. I am sure you saw the results. So Hodzi was on a tie with Majome. They were placed on number 5 and 6 just because of computation differences. You can see that. She said she has no power to personally influence the president’s decisions.
“There seems to be a deliberate plot to portray me as a character who prevails over other state institutions in violation of the rule of law and disrespectfully so. The story that you published, that I was in a meeting with the President, the vice president, the chief justice, the minister and others and I came to argue with them. I respect those people. I can never even coexist in a meeting with the VP and the chief justice. What for? I am very suspicious because it appears a trend now has been established that Mabhiza has captured the judiciary, she speaks to the chief justice. I do not have those powers.
She also wrote to the Independent: “I put it to you that the meeting never happened and if indeed it happened, I did not attend or make any presentations. I am of the opinion that the story is a creation to suit an agenda aimed at tarnishing my image or present me as having tried to impose a certain candidate on the president who has the executive prerogative to appoint the prosecutor general. The inference over other arms of the state, which is not true.”