Judges panel conduct first public interviews for Zim Prosecutor General …as former deputy PG in Namibia says wrongly convicted
Harare – Zimbabwe’s Judicial Service Commission (JSC) on Monday conducted inaugural public interviews for the post of Prosecutor General (PG) in line with the new Constitution adopted in 2013.
The post was left vacant following the dismissal of then Prosecutor General, Johannes Tomana on a slew of charges relating to abuse of office mid this year.
Seven candidates, including Acting Prosecutor General Ray Goba, were lined up for the interviews for the country’s top prosecuting job.
The interviews were conducted at a local hotel with lawyers, media personnel, law students and members of the public in attendance to watch the grilling.
Chief Justice Luke Malaba led a seven-member JSC panel that was interviewing the candidates who came in one by one.
The basic questions centred around what the candidates would do to make the PG’s department more effective in the discharge of its duties, why they felt they were the right person for the job among others with various other tough questions being made as follow ups.
The hard questions also included issues around dubious conduct by some of the candidates.
While the candidates differed on how they would execute their assignments, there was general consensus on the need to capacitate the department with adequate human and financial resources, ensuring its independence, addressing issues of corruption and perception on selective prosecution of offenders.
First up the firing line was lawyer, Charles Chinyama, who left the audience in stitches on various occasions as he tried to defend himself on some alleged transgressions such as abuse of trust funds and getting into a romantic relationship with a client.
“The fact that some of the issues have not been pursued by the Law Society of Zimbabwe means they are not serious issues,” he said.
Most male lawyers, he argued, were accused of being involved in relationships with female clients.
It was however the second candidate, Acting PG Goba who took up most of the interviewing time as the panel grilled him on his almost two decade old conviction in Namibia on charges of attempting to defeat the course of justice.
Appointed as Acting Prosecutor General in July last year, Goba, was convicted at a time he was deputy prosecutor general in Namibia.
He was convicted in a Namibian regional court in 2002 for driving a vehicle on a public road with excessive alcohol concentration in his blood in contravention of Section 140(2) of the Road Traffic Ordinance 1967; failing to obey a road traffic sign in contravention of Section 101(1) of the Ordinance; and attempting to defeat or obstruct the course of justice.
According to court documents in Namibia, Goba’s conviction on the charge of attempting to obstruct or defeat the course of justice was premised on the allegation that he “knowingly tried to avoid the taking of a specimen of his blood within the statutory period of two hours by (a) refusing to furnish the law enforcement officers with the cellphone or telephone number of his legal representative before the specimen was taken; (b) attempting to escape while being transported in lawful custody to the hospital for the specimen to be taken; (c) attempting to escape from lawful custody at the hospital before the specimen was taken; (d) attempting by threats to intimidate the law enforcement officers not to investigate the alleged offence against him; and (e) refusing to submit to the taking of a blood specimen by the doctor when requested to do so”.
Following his conviction, the Namibian government declined to renew his employment permit which lapsed on December 31 2010 after he failed to secure work and residence permits. At the time he was the chief director of Legal Services and International Co-operation in the Ministry of Justice.
This week, three of the seven-member JSC panel asked him questions relating to the conviction to justify why he should be appointed PG.
And a seemingly unrepentant Goba insisted he was wrongly penalised for the offence which he said had its genesis as a traffic offence but was later changed to attempt to defeat the course of justice due to alleged racism and misunderstandings that happened during the handling of the matter.
Goba told the panel: “I was a victim of grave injustice.”
While he appealed against the conviction, a superior court upheld the initial ruling.
Goba said he failed to use available recourse to deal with the matter as the last person he was supposed to appeal to, the Chief Justice, had recently been promoted and was one of the two judges who had upheld his conviction.
He however told the panel that Namibia’s current Attorney General has assured him the matter was being dealt with for him to get presidential clemency.
Goba described the conviction as a “blot on a white paper.”
He said the Namibian government had twice promoted him after the conviction, adding he was dumbfounded why Zimbabweans felt more aggrieved about the matter.
After all his justifications on why the conviction should not be used as a measure of his ability to take over the PG’s job, a seemingly disturbed Chief Justice Luke Malaba, in a second round of questioning, asked Goba “You seem to treat this conviction as a minor offence, is that correct?”
To which Goba responded “Every offence is serious otherwise the law would not provide for it. All l am saying is that it should be considered alongside the facts and circumstances.”
Goba said “no human being is infallible” adding that the public would still understand his situation if he was appointed substantive PG.
Besides the conviction, Goba convincingly answered most of the questions that were thrown at him by the panel.
Current Law Society of Zimbabwe president, Misheck Hogwe came third in line for the interviews and told the JSC panel that he was up to the task of transforming the office of the PG.
A lawyer for the past 23 years, almost all of which were in private practise, Hogwe said he had “acquired enough knowledge and experience relevant to the post of Prosecutor General.”
He said he would work hard to address concerns about corruption and selective prosecution which continue to dog the Office of the PG.
The interviews, which were scheduled to be held on one day, appeared to be headed for day two or will run till late into the night as they were still on-going by the time of going to press.
Other candidates due to be interviewed include Wilson Manase, Tecler Mapota, Peter Mufunda and Florence Ziyambi.
After the interviews, the JSC will forward names of the top three best candidates to President Robert Mugabe, who will have the final say on the appointment. – New Ziana/TST Writer.