Politicians must stay out of JSC's way

HARARE - This week, the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) ran advertisements in nearly all the newspapers, inviting suitable candidates to apply for the Prosecutor-General (PG)’s post.

The position fell vacant following the dismissal of Johannes Tomana, who became the first PG to be appointed under the new Constitution promulgated in 2013.

His dismissal by President Robert Mugabe was at the recommendations of a tribunal he had set up in June last year to look into allegations of criminal abuse of office that had been levelled against him.

Tomana’s exit should provide useful lessons to the JSC and all those involved in the selection process about the qualities they should look for and look out for in not just appointing a suitable PG, but any office bearer for a public office.

Tomana belonged to a small group of civil servants who are not ashamed of displaying their political leanings, and could declare his undying support for Zanu PF in no uncertain terms. He basically became a law unto himself by committing transgressions that eventually led to his abandonment by Zanu PF long after civil society leaders and opposition political parties had demanded his head.

While Tomana had the constitutional right to support a party of his choice, he totally forgot that civil servants must observe a strict rule book that proscribes them from showing their political, factional, tribal, racial or religion preferences while in their employ and that the law must be applied equally.

His dismissal was therefore good riddance to bad rubbish. It is now critical that whoever takes over from him must be fit to occupy the office.

In terms of the Constitution, there is a clear procedure to be followed whereby the position must be advertised, as has just happened. Thereafter, there has to be public nominations, followed by public interviews of prospective candidates in the interest of enhancing transparency, while contributing to ensuring the credibility and professionalism of the nominees through scrutiny of their record of service and past conduct.

The JSC has spelt out a credible criterion consistent with the new charter. One can only hope that those who fit the bill will apply in their numbers so that whoever emerges tops would be the best man or woman for the job, which involves providing oversight over all criminal prosecutions on behalf of the State; from the lower courts to the highest court in the land.

While it is our fervent hope that there won’t be unnecessary political drama similar to that experienced in the appointment of a new Chief Justice for the Supreme Court in May this year, it is not a good sign that the various factions in the ruling Zanu PF party are already lining up their proxies for the position.

Once again, Mugabe should rise above these myopic and selfish factional interests as he did with the appointment of Luke Malaba to the Supreme Court because anything short of that would produce a tainted and defective outcome that would return to haunt us all.

 

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