IN-DEPTH: Why did Mugabe sack his chief prosecutor?

2017-06-12 10:07
Robert Mugabe (File: AP)

Robert Mugabe (File: AP)

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Harare - President Robert Mugabe has sacked his chief prosecutor Johannes Tomana, a ruling party loyalist who supported his white land seizures.

In an official government notice published on Friday, top justice ministry official Virginia Mabiza said: "The tribunal has advised His Excellency, the President that the Prosecutor General ought to be removed from office for incompetence and misconduct.

"Accordingly, in terms of section 187 (8), of the Constitution, the Prosecutor General is removed from office with effect from the date of publication of this notice."

But Tomana's fall from grace was far from unexpected.

Here's a look at the run-up to it:

Angered Grace Mugabe

This is where Tomana likely made a fatal mistake. Back in February 2016, Tomana dropped charges against two men accused of plotting to bomb the First Lady’s dairy factory in Mazowe, north of Harare.

At the time, commentators questioned the credibility of the plot. They suggested the plot could have been set up as part of the murky factional battles within the ruling Zanu-PF party. Tomana may have backed (or failed to back or failed to be seen to back) the right faction.

More charges

Tomana's handling of the dairy bombing case was soon eclipsed by a slew of other charges of incompetence, criminal abuse of office and misconduct brought against him last July, when he was arrested for a second time.

The additional charges date from his time as Attorney General, an office he held before he became Prosecutor General in 2013. 

Initial arrest condemned

Rights lawyers condemned his initial arrest 16 months ago, saying the government was interfering with an office that was guaranteed to be independent under the constitution. Reaction to his dismissal has so far been muted.

But some took to Twitter to suggest Tomana's plight was to be expected in the fraught political game pitting rival ruling party factions.

"If you put bootlicking into overdrive that's what happens. Other bootlickers will follow," said @ChristopherMh18.

Commented another Zimbabwean @muusha70: "J Tomana ZANU-PF will use you as toilet tissue and flush you. Imagine all ZANU-PF criminals who you protected as AG."

Blow to 'Lacoste'?

Private press reports suggest Tomana may be aligned to a faction led by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa (though of course, this cannot be confirmed). Mnangagwa's faction is often referred to as Lacoste, a reference to the crocodile symbol that is also the VP's nickname.

Tomana's downfall could be seen as a drawback for Lacoste: "Ngwenya [Mnangagwa] is losing allies in high positions," as one Zimbabwean tweeted. On the other hand, Mnangagwa is still in charge of the justice ministry and is likely to have had a hand in picking the man who's been acting PG since Tomana's suspension, Ray Goba.

Murky. All very very murky.

Read more on:    zanu-pf  |  grace mugabe  |  emmerson mnangagwa  |  robert mugabe  |  johannes tomana  |  zimbabwe  |  southern africa

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