WASHINGTON DC —
Attorney-General Johannes Tomana has, as was widely expected, been sworn-in to become the country’s first prosecutor general.
Tomana took his oath of office at State House in the capital Wednesday.
Under the Lancaster House Constitution, the Attorney-General was the government’s chief legal adviser. He was also responsible for prosecuting criminal cases on behalf of the state.
But under the new constitution these two functions have been separated as the Attorney-General continues to give legal advice to the government. But responsibility for criminal prosecutions is transferred to a new National Prosecuting Authority now headed by Tomana.
Lawyer Jeremiah Bamu of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said Mr. Mugabe must now appoint an Attorney-General.
Human rights lawyer and director of the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum, Gabriel Shumba, said Tomana’s track record is a cause for concern.
In a statement, meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said it notes with “approval the implementation of the long overdue separation of the functions of the Attorney-General and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).”
ZLHR hailed the move as a good practice that will allow for “increased public scrutiny of, and accountability for, the actions of the prosecutorial authority.”
The human rights group said the new Constitution of Zimbabwe sets out a clear procedure for the appointment of a Prosecutor-General which includes "advertising the post, allowing public nominations, and requiring public interviews of prospective candidates."
The lawyers body said this enhances the transparency of the appointment process, "whilst contributing to ensuring the credibility and professionalism of the nominees through scrutiny of their record of service and past conduct."'
But ZLHR said Tomana’s appointment Wednesday was merely fulfilling a constitutional provision noting that by “operation of transitional provisions in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, the current Attorney General becomes the Prosecutor General without operation of the previously outlined requirements.
The group further said Tomana "has therefore been saved and shielded from the constitutionally mandated process of public scrutiny, which is regrettable"
The lawyers body though indicated that it will nevertheless continue to monitor how the Prosecutor-General carries out his mandated functions as he is constitutionally obliged not to "act in a partisan manner; not to further the interests of any one political party or cause; not to prejudice the lawful interests of any other political party or cause; not to be an active member of any political party; and not to violate the fundamental rights or freedoms of any person.”
ZLHR added that: “We further expect the political neutrality of the Prosecutor-General and the officers in the NPA to be urgently legislated by way of an Act of Parliament as part of the harmonisation of laws with the new Constitution, as this is a critical issue which is in the national interest and which will improve public confidence in the justice delivery system.”