Minister attacks ‘embarrassing’ AG
By Gift Phiri, Senior Writer
Sunday, 25 March 2012 14:19
HARARE - Deputy Justice and Legal Affairs minister Obert Gutu has accused
the Attorney General of severely compromising the justice delivery system in
In a damning presentation to the symposium on the administration of justice
in regional bloc Sadc in Johannesburg on Friday, Gutu said justice delivery
in an efficient, fair and impartial manner was one of the key cornerstones
of any democratic nation but Johannes Tomana’s office was undermining all
efforts to overhaul the justice delivery system.
The deputy minister, who is also Chisipite Senator, said although on paper,
Zimbabwe recognises that in the determination of any criminal charge,
everyone has the right to a fair and public hearing by a legally
constituted, competent, independent and impartial judicial body, the reality
on the grounds is otherwise.
Gutu, a member of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s party in an uneasy
coalition, said the Zimbabwean justice delivery system, especially in
politically sensitive cases, was severely compromised.
He spoke in the wake of international condemnation of the conviction of
University of Zimbabwe lecturer, Munyaradzi Gwisai and five of his
co-accused on the charge of “conspiracy to incite public violence with a
view to overthrowing the unity government” for watching footage of the
Egyptian revolution that overthrew long-serving strongman Hosni Mubarak.
“I have absolutely no apology to make by submitting that our Attorney
General’s office has been plagued with allegations of political bias,
corruption and in some cases, downright incompetence,” Gutu told the
“Many political activists have been hastily arrested on flimsy and or
trumped-up criminal charges, detained for inordinately long periods of time
and eventually acquitted after undergoing trial.
“It is a fact that in most politically sensitive criminal cases, the
Attorney General’s office has had a spectacular if not embarrassing failure
International rights groups have expressed concern that magistrates' courts
in Zimbabwe were coming under undue pressure after passing decisions not
favourable to the Attorney General’s office in cases against perceived
political opponents and human rights defenders.
Gutu said the situation was compounded by the fact that Tomana was President
Mugabe’s key ally. Mugabe has staunchly resisted MDC efforts to unseat
Tomana through political reforms envisaged under the Global Political
The MDC wanted a consensus candidate agreed to by all the three parties in
the ruling coalition to replace Tomana.
The Daily News on Sunday understands it is one of the outstanding issues in
the GPA that have been “parked” because there is no agreement.
“The problem is further worsened when key persons in the Attorney General’s
office openly declare their support of and allegiance to a particular
political party,” he said.
“In my humble view, the prosecuting authority in any country should never,
ever openly declare its support for any political party. Such an action
erodes the credibility of the prosecuting authority.”
Due to Tomana’s political posturing, the US Treasury Department was forced
to impose targeted sanctions on the AG in December 2010, saying his actions
undermined the country's democratic institutions, with Tomana retorting that
the action was an attack on the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
The Office of the AG is a Constitutional Office set up under Section 76 of
the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
Adam Szubin, director of US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said
then Tomana’s targeting of selected political opponents threatens the rule
of law in Zimbabwe, harms the integrity of the government and counters the
will of Zimbabwean people who have expressed their desire to build a
US Treasury said Tomana, “has selectively prosecuted political opponents and
their perceived supporters in an effort to undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic
processes and institutions.”
Gutu said his ministry has launched an ambitious government reform programme
entitled Equal Justice for All.
“Under this programme, in which we are collaborating with the United Nations
Development Programme, all key stakeholders are going to come together, pool
resources and strategise in a bid to improve the justice, law and order
sector and ensure equal access to justice for all."
“We are encouraging the establishment of a holistic sector wide approach to
overhauling and revamping our justice delivery system.”