By Blessings Mashaya
There is a looming chronic workforce shortage at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) after the Constitutional Court (Con-Court) ordered the body to disengage all serving members of the security services within its employment, with a leading legal watchdog saying it was vital for Finance minister Mthuli Ncube to allow the NPA to recruit new staff.
This comes as Zimbabwean Treasury has frozen all recruitment by most government arms.
But legal watchdog Veritas said the NPA needs an aggressive hiring push, after the Con-Court ruled that its employment of serving security service members was a serious breach of section 208(4) of the Constitution.
Government was dragged to court in January 2015 by the Zimbabwe Law Officers Association and a former prosecutor after police officers and members of the Defence Forces were seconded to the NPA amid a shortage of trained prosecutors. Some of these police and military officers were said to be very good but they are not trained lawyers.
In its February 19 judgment, the full Con-Court bench led by Chief Justice Luke Malaba ordered the NPA “to disengage all serving members of the security services within its employment”.
The court, however, allowed the NPA 24 months — which lapse on February 18, 2021 — to comply with the order.
The Con-Court ruled that the delay in removing the security force was “to avoid chaos”.
Veritas said under these circumstances, it was folly blocking the recruitment of new prosecutors given that the NPA was facing a looming crisis in staffing numbers.
“NPA needs more resources. Government will inevitably have to allocate greater resources to the NPA to enable it to attract and retain competent and professional civilian personnel. Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, please note,” Veritas said in a commentary.
Veritas’s exhortation could win favour with Ncube, given that, last month Treasury authorised the recruitment of at least 3 000 teachers in a bid to improve the teacher-to-pupil ratio which impacts on the quality of education in schools.
Government has not been recruiting since 2015 after the then Public Service Commission announced that recruitment and promotions in the civil service had been frozen as part of a staff rationalisation exercise.
The NPA court challenge was brought before the Con-Court by Zimbabwe Law Officers Association and former prosecutor Dereck Charamba in terms of section 85(1) of the Constitution.
The court challenge cited the NPA, the prosecutor-general, the Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs minister, the Commissioner-General of Police and the Attorney-General as respondents.
The applicants were seeking an order declaring the employment of serving members of the security services, as prosecutors, to be unconstitutional.
And the court concurred that the NPA’s employment of serving security service members was a serious breach of section 208(4) of the Constitution, which reads:
“Serving members of the security services (that is the Defence Forces, the Police Service, the intelligence services and the Prisons and Correctional Service) must not be employed in civilian institutions except in periods of public emergency.”
The court order now requires the removal from the NPA of all serving security services members whether they are functioning as prosecutors or in any other capacity.
The court order now requires the removal from the NPA of all serving security services members whether they are functioning as prosecutors or in any other capacity. DailyNews