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The rise and fall of Johannes Tomana

By Tendai Kamhungira

Former Prosecutor-General (PG) Johannes Tomana, who could have things done just by the click of his fingers, has fallen from grace, with criminal charges hanging above his head.

Zimbabwe's chief prosecutor Johannes Tomana (C) arrives at the Harare Magistrates court
Zimbabwe’s chief prosecutor Johannes Tomana (C) arrives at the Harare Magistrates court

His rise to power was quite phenomenal, with many accusing him of being a beneficiary of the Zanu PF’s patronage system.

But like many who have had a cosy relationship with Zanu PF, they know that it’s like supping with the devil.

The ruling party is accused by its critics and, even victims, of using people and dumping them in the most callous and brutal way.

It has taken many high up the political ladder, and has left them there to dry, falling with a heavy thud and leaving them at the mercy of its available punishment machinery.

And many, who have gone through the experience, testify that it is cold outside the confines and comfort of the creature that is Zanu PF.

These are the same circumstances that Tomana finds himself in.

From being a mere prosecutor, who formed his own law firm, Tomana, found his way to the top as the country’s Attorney-General (AG) in 2008, taking over from Supreme Court judge Bharat Patel, who was the acting AG following the dismissal of Sobusa Gula-Ndebele.

He later became the country’s Prosecutor-General in 2013 after the coming in of the new Constitution, which separated the two offices.

His appointment drew the ire of the MDC, Zanu PF’s fiercest rival to date, as he was believed to be Mugabe’s blue-eyed boy.

The MDC, led by former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, accused him of abusing the now-defunct Section 121 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act.

Section 121 suspended a bail order issued by a magistrate for seven days to allow the State time to contest the decision.

The section gave the State powers when a suspect was granted bail, to notify the court of its intention to challenge the decision and by operation of the law, the suspect remained in custody pending the hearing of the appeal.

Several political activists from the opposition were victims of the Act, during Tomana’s time at the helm.

MDC spokesperson and lawyer Obert Gutu said Tomana “had certainly grown too big for his little shoes”.

“The way in which he abused the criminal justice delivery system was shocking. For instance, he would routinely invoke the notorious Section 121 of the Criminal Procedure & Evidence Act (now repealed), just to make sure that opposition activists would be remanded in custody for a further period of seven days even if they had been admitted to bail by the magistrates’ courts,” Gutu said.

He said that Tomana carried with him a misguided air of “arrogance and pomposity”.

“Little did he know that the Zanu PF regime is a very cruel and evil system that, now and again, victimises even some of its own supposedly most loyal and avid supporters.

“Tomana became intoxicated with power and vanity. It is true that very few, if any, democratically minded people would sympathise with his demise. Those who live by the sword invariably also die by sword,” he said.

On the other hand, Tendai Biti’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP), said that Tomana’s sacking brings hope that a new dispensation will be ushered in the legal system.

“The man who presided over this department (Prosecutor-General’s office) in recent years is . . . Tomana who in our view decided to direct much of his efforts in a narrow partisan agenda other than focus on the core duties of his office as outlined in Section 259 of the supreme law.

“The PDP is convinced that the conduct of Tomana did not only compromise the efficacy of the prosecution but resulted in the loss of trust in the department by the Zimbabwean people,” the party spokesperson Jacob Mafume, who is also a lawyer by profession said in a statement.

During his tenure, Tomana is accused of making controversial decisions some of which saw him in the dock.

He was suspended in July last year over a slew of allegations which included criminal abuse of office and gross incompetence involving a number of cases that were before the courts.

A tribunal, headed by retired High Court judge Moses Chinhengo, completed its probe in February.

The tribunal found him guilty on both misconduct and incompetence before Mugabe sacked him for being unfit to hold the office of the Prosecutor-General.

Among the issues that the panel was interrogating was Tomana’s alleged refusal to issue a private prosecution certificate to Francis Maramwidze for the prosecution of disgraced former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) advisor and legislator Munyaradzi Kereke.

The former aide to retired RBZ governor Gideon Gono is serving an effective 10 years in jail for raping his then 11-year-old niece at gunpoint almost seven years ago, after four years of his sentence was suspended on condition of good behaviour.

Other allegations related to Tomana’s refusal to issue certificates of prosecution against former Telecel director Jane Mutasa, who was facing fraud charges, as well as obstructing justice after ordering the withdrawal of charges against two suspects who were being accused of planning to bomb Gushungo Dairy, a company owned by the First Family.

He was also accused of abusing his office by withdrawing charges against former deputy minister Bright Matonga, who was accused of corruption in 2008.

The tribunal also heard that the former PG had ordered the withdrawal of charges that had been laid against former Bindura Hospital acting superintendent, Beauty Basile, who had been charged with criminal abuse of office. Daily News