HARARE – President Robert Mugabe’s shock decision to rescind the appointment of Prosecutor-General (PG) Ray Goba is unconstitutional and can be challenged in court, legal and political experts said yesterday.
Goba’s appointment was reversed by Mugabe in an extraordinary gazette issued Friday.
He now reverts to being the acting PG while Mugabe considers a new candidate although Goba told our sister paper, the Daily News on Friday, that he was considering his legal options.
Goba’s dismissal was announced in Friday’s extraordinary gazette signed by the chief secretary to the President and Cabinet, Misheck Sibanda, who ironically had issued the previous gazette confirming his appointment.
“Repeal of the General Notice 493 of 2017 concerning the appointment of the Prosecutor General of Zimbabwe. It is hereby notified that the captioned general notice that was published in the gazette Extraordinary on the 13th September, 2017 is repealed,” it was announced.
The decision came six weeks after Goba formally assumed the post having been picked by Mugabe ahead of two other candidates – Misheck Hogwe and Wilson Manase – although he was yet to be sworn in.
Constitutional expert, Lovemore Madhuku, yesterday said Mugabe had violated the law by rescinding the appointment of Goba whom he said, according to the constitution, his dismissal would be only done via a Tribunal.
“It’s clearly contrary the Constitution. He (Mugabe) made the appointment and he cannot dismiss him the way he did. He did communicate his appointment to the public. He (Mugabe) must not be allowed to get away with this,” Madhuku said.
Ealier when there was speculation that Goba’s appointment could be reversed, Madhuku said Mugabe had correctly exercised his executive powers by appointing Goba the new PG.
“The president has already exercised that function … and he cannot stand in the way of the person he has appointed. I don’t see him doing that.
“The constitution also requires anyone assuming office to take an oath, but that (swearing in) can be delegated to anyone by the president … the swearing in would be just ceremonial and is different from the executive function,” Madhuku said then.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure said Goba could have been a victim of the ugly succession and factional wars devouring Zanu PF.
“I think only insiders know the decision behind the move, all of us we can speculate and for many people factionalism explains the decision to dismiss Goba in light of the cabinet reshuffle.
“We have the new minister he might have recommended the dismissal and this might have a factional dimension as you know … Mnangagwa was the one who recommended Goba to be appointed the PG.
“ I think it was not easy to reach that decision, probably it’s unprecedented. We can only speculate for now but many people think that the issue of factionalism caused Goba’s dismissal,” Masunungure told the Daily News On Sunday.
Goba was viewed as sympathetic to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa who previously held dual roles as VP and Justice minister before Mugabe’s recent cabinet reshuffle.
Mnangagwa’s influence was diluted by Mugabe who replaced him as Justice minister with former Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) director general, Happyton Bonyongwe.
Veterans of the country’s liberation, who have publicly stated their support for Mnangagwa to succeed Mugabe, yesterday said Goba’s dismissal was unlawful.
“The Prosecutor General is a position created by the new Constitution, he is appointed and all procedures were followed, then the next thing there is a cabinet reshuffle and we now see a government gazette saying that the appointment has been rescinded. No that’s not the way you run a modern country.
“It is important that the president and cabinet apply themselves assiduously to that process so that we don’t go through these kinds of hiccups. We hope that the disappointed Prosecutor General challenges what has happened to him before the courts so that a way can be found. We want the parliament to look into that judgement,” said chairman of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) Christopher Mutsvangwa.
“We hope that Goba would test the circumstances surrounding him, his appointment and his disappointment. We also hope that the new Minister of justice will allow the law to ventilate on such kind of issues because that will be a litmus test for somebody who comes from the intelligence organisation and become minister of justice.
“The two things are different, one you are an operative and the other one you are an enforcer of justice. So we hope that he will behave in such a manner that clarity can be given to the people of Zimbabwe and parliament should be given a chance to review that issue,” Mutsvangwa added.
Goba came joint tops in the interviews held by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to find a worthy candidate for the office.
The results of the interview process showed that Goba was tied joint top, on 59 percent with Hogwe, while Manase was third with 53 percent.
Deputy PG Florence Ziyambi — who was touted as a worthier contender for the top persecution job in some Zanu PF quarters — actually performed dismally in the interviews, coming a distant fifth in the eyes of the JSC with 37 percent.
Goba was appointed to the position by Mugabe, after serving a year in the job on an interim basis — following the suspension and subsequent sacking of his predecessor, Johannes Tomana.
However, his appointment — announced via an extraordinary gazette — was contested by factions of the brawling ruling Zanu PF, just as they did during the selection of the new Chief Justice, where they fought viciously to have their preferred candidate take over from the late Godfrey Chidyausiku.
The appointment of Goba drew mixed feelings among observers, with some questioning his suitability for the job after he was convicted in Namibia for driving drunk and attempting to defeat the course of justice.
During the interviews to choose the new PG, Goba vigorously defended himself.
Mugabe picked Goba from the list of the top three candidates who were submitted to him by the JSC.
According to the JSC's list of six candidates, Tecler Mapota scored 38 percent, Ziyambi 37 percent and prominent criminal lawyer Charles Chinyama had 23 percent.