Zim AG’s job on the line after acquittal of Bennett

2010-05-11 10:48

Zimbabwe’s attorney-general (AG) Johannes Tomana’s job hangs in the balance after the acquittal of President Robert Mugabe’s arch-enemy Roy Bennett, sources in the AG’s office have said.

A source who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “It is common cause in government circles that Tomana did a shoddy job of Bennett’s prosecution and embarrassed government many times during the trial.

"Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa made it clear that he was not happy at all with Tomana’s apparent incompetence and that he will be lucky to survive this one.”

Tomana, the controversial AG whose appointment has been a major cause of discord in the inclusive government, personally handled the prosecution of Bennett on treason charges which the Zimbabwe High Court threw out yesterday morning.

Tomana led the prosecution assisted by director of prosecutions Florence Ziyambi and chief law officer Chris Mutangadura.

The state accused Bennett of banditry, sabotage, terrorism and plotting to assassinate top government officials including Mugabe.

Their case was systematically dismantled in an embarrassing fashion by top human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa who tore to shreds all the state’s key witnesses, exposing deliberate attempts to frame the MDC top politician.

Sources in the AG’s office said Tomana had convinced Mugabe that he would nail Bennett, securing at least a conviction that would prevent his appointment into cabinet and, at best, taking him to the gallows.

But as one state witness after another collapsed under cross-examination by the defence lawyers, Tomana became desperate as he started bringing up stale cases against Bennett including that of illegally hoarding maize six years ago.

All the charges failed to stick and Tomana finally conceded defeat at the high court yesterday.

Tomana said: “It’s a high court decision. That is the way of showing justice.”

Highlights of the Bennett case included the forced appearance as key state witness of Michael Hitschmann, a convicted arms dealer who turned against the state, clearing Bennett of any involvement in his arms dealings. He was declared a hostile witness and was impeached.

This did not help the state’s case as, even after being impeached, Hitschmann stood by his case exonerating Bennett and convincing the court.

The other incident was the appearance of one Perekayi Mutsetse, a key state witness who claimed to be an information technology expert.

He was expected to link email messages found on Hitchmann’s laptop to Bennett.

He failed dismally to do so and shocked the court when he, under cross-examination, said he had no idea what computer hackers were.

Mutsetse said: “What are they? I don’t think they are found in this country, maybe in South Africa but I don’t know what their job is.”

Even high court judge, Justice Chinembiri Bhunu, could be seen struggling not to laugh out loud.

In his judgment yesterday morning, Bhunu said Mutsetse’s depth of ignorance was shocking and his evidence “sounded dubious”.

Bhunu said: “The witness even said at the end of his testimony that the court had wasted his time.”

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