'Cartel has designs' on Zimbabwe judiciary
Acting prosecutions chief says officials have been 'captured'
Damning allegations have been made of interference with Zimbabwe's judiciary by a "cartel", a claim which turns up the heat on the incoming prosecutor-general.
The post has become one of key importance in President Emmerson Mnangagwa's administration, as he has anchored his five-year term in office on the pledge of "zero tolerance" of corruption.
Public hearings to fill the vacant post ran into the early hours of Thursday morning. The Judicial Service Commission will submit three names from the list of 10 candidates to Mnangagwa.
In a report to chief justice Luke Malaba, acting prosecutor-general Kumbirai Hodzi claims "a few officers have been captured in the NPA [National Prosecuting Authority], in the judiciary, the police and even the registry".
"They operate as a cartel. Most of the lawyers, the old lawyers, they had stopped going to do criminal matters. Advocates would come to my office saying it's a waste of time; it's orchestrated, it's corrupt and justice is being sold to the highest bidder," Hodzi said.
"We have identified the main characters that are involved and we are building a dossier. If we are to develop our system of justice to see to it that it's fair to litigants, and to the community, we are going to have to confront this corruption head-on."
Hodzi reiterated his charges at the hearings, held in Harare, saying the judiciary was under undue influence from a "cartel" made up of lawyers, judges, police and the media, all "hellbent" on influencing its work.
Before resigning, his predecessor, Ray Goba, raised the red flag on the militarisation of the NPA. "The entire management of the department of administration is comprised of seconded military personnel who did not have the requisite experience managing and carrying out such a mammoth task involving as it does the recruitment of 109 new prosecutors and over 50 members of the administrative staff," read a part of Goba's letter to chief justice Malaba, in response to claims made by justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi of being asleep at the wheel.
Goba fell out of favour with Mnangagwa in July over what the latter viewed as a kid-glove approach to corruption, which resulted in very few prosecutions and convictions.
Goba was suspended in July and a tribunal was established to investigate his fitness to hold office, but he resigned in August before the tribunal could get under way.
The Judicial Service Commission advertised the prosecutions chief vacancy and invited nominations from the president and members of the public. The 10 candidates comprised Hodzi, Noriah Mashumba, Misheck Hogwe, Jessie Majome, Maphios Cheda, Tino Chinyoka, Wendy Chingeya, Florence Ziyambi, Tichaona Mantsebo and Edmund Marondedza.
Hodzi's submission to the commission provided an insider's view of the alleged power struggle behind the scenes.
"There has been an erosion of professionalism by a few lawyers who are very corrupt. There are a few officers who have been captured … [who] operate as a cartel," Hodzi said.
He claimed that an attempt had been made on his life after he had compiled a damning report on the people who were at the heart of attempts to interfere with the judiciary.
"We have traced some of the cartel right up to very high-ranking political figures who are pretending that they are untouchable. I made my report, a very damning report, to my principals, who gave me the go-ahead to move against those persons. I received assurances that at the end of the day they won't have any political cover," Hodzi said.
Legal experts raised concerns this week over the acting prosecutor-general deferring to his principals, given that the constitution gives him autonomy.
"In terms of the constitution, he is not supposed to have principals. As prosecutor-general, he shouldn't receive instructions because he is independent . The legal profession … expects someone who is truly independent," said a legal expert who requested anonymity.
Ziyambi said on Friday he did not know which principals Hodzi was referring to.
"Maybe he is confusing the executive with something else. I have never done that. The president is very clear … he respects the rule of law and the constitution … Hodzi is the best person to answer what he meant by taking orders from the executive," said Ziyambi.