HARARE – Fired Prosecutor-General (PG) Ray Goba yesterday received a huge boost in his bid to keep his job when the High Court stopped the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) from removing or interfering with his appointment without following procedures outlined in the Constitution.
Section (259) (7) of the Constitution says the PG can only be removed from office by a tribunal after conducting a judicial inquiry.
However, last month former president Robert Mugabe rescinded his earlier appointment of Goba to the substantive post of PG when he shockingly fired him via an extraordinary gazette signed by the chief secretary to the President and Cabinet, Misheck Sibanda, who ironically had issued the previous gazette confirming his appointment.
Yesterday, High Court Judge Justice Priscilla Chigumba issued the interdict sought by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) stopping Mugabe and the JSC from instituting any processes for the appointment of a new PG to replace Goba.
ZLHR executive director Roselyn Hanzi had appealed against an October 27 decision by Mugabe to reverse the appointment of Goba.
In an urgent chamber application filed on November 1, ZLHR had instructed Advocate Eric Matinenga to argue the matter on its behalf, and wanted the High Court to interdict Mugabe and the JSC from removing or in any other way interfere with Goba’s constitutional appointment without following the removal from office procedures provided for in Section (259) (7) of the Constitution.
“The matter was argued before Judge Chigumba this afternoon and we got the interdict we had applied for, so it means that if Goba had been locked out, he can report to work tomorrow,” Matinenga told the Daily News yesterday.
“And obviously the process which the JSC had commenced with regards to invitation for people to apply for this post has been put on hold. The reason the ruling was in our favour was because there was no legal basis for the former president’s decision to rescind Goba’s appointment, there was no constitutional basis for the code of conduct which he took in rescinding Goba’s appointment.”
In a founding affidavit, Hanzi, argued that the organisation has a direct and substantial interest in the obedience and observance of the provisions of the Constitution by all individuals and organs bound by it and that the Constitution is the supreme law of Zimbabwe and every conduct inconsistent with it is invalid to the extent of the inconsistency.
The human rights organisation contended that the PG can only be removed from office upon the advice of a tribunal set up in terms of section 187 of the Constitution and that the supreme charter does not provide another different route that can be followed to remove the PG from office.
ZLHR wants the High Court to issue an order declaring that the Government Gazette extraordinary notice number 642 of 2017 purporting to repeal Government Gazette number 493 of 2017 invalid and of no legal force and effect.
Goba was viewed as sympathetic to incoming President Emmerson Mnangagwa who previously held dual roles as VP and Justice minister before his powers were first whittled down by Mugabe in a Cabinet reshuffle and later fired from both government and Zanu PF.
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.
He had come out joint top in the interviews held by the JSC to find a worthy candidate for the office.
Mugabe picked Goba from the list of the top three candidates who were submitted to him by the JSC.
The results of the interview process showed that Goba was tied joint top, on 59 percent with Misheck Hogwe, while Wilson 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.
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
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.