NPA dogged by challenges

HARARE - The majority of people working in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) have no law degrees and half of the staff is seconded from other government ministries, with large numbers coming from the security sector, it has been revealed.

Acting Prosecutor-General (PG) Ray Goba said this during public interviews conducted in Harare on Monday to fill the post of PG which fell vacant following the sacking of Johannes Tomana early this year.

Tomana was fired on allegations of incompetence and misconduct.

“Forty-six percent of the NPA establishment is made up of seconded people. The majority of the staff do not have law degrees and are seconded,” Goba said.

Members of the security forces were seconded to the NPA to ease the shortage of prosecutors in the country’s courts.

There is a pending court application filed by the Zimbabwe Law Officers’ Association and former public prosecutor Derek Charamba, which seeks to bar members of the security sector from working as prosecutors.

Goba said this was worrying to him given that the Constitutional Court could grant an order in favour of the request.

Judgment in the application was reserved by the then Chief Justice, the late Godfrey Chidyausiku after submissions were made by prosecutor-general’s representative Sharon Fero and applicant’s lawyer Tawanda Zhuwarara.

In his submissions on behalf of the applicants, Zhuwarara said the use of the security forces to perform prosecutorial duties in civilian courts was in violation of Section 208(4) of the Constitution.

“Engagement of police and army officers to prosecute in civilian courts is a misnomer. This practice cannot be condoned, tolerated or excused in a democratic society,” Zhuwarara said.

“The mechanics of birthing a public prosecutor are different from those put in place to bring about a police officer or an army officer . . . they are part of the security system and cannot be engaged in civilian institutions since they are bound by specific rules of discipline.”

However, there is great fear that removing these members of the security sector from the courts would result in shortage of staff, as many qualified lawyers are not willing to take up posts in the NPA owing to poor working conditions and meagre salaries.

“Thirty-two members of staff have either resigned, deceased or expelled and there has been no replacements and that is why I am pushing with Treasury for the improvement of the establishment so that we don’t have such problems. If these people are to go, we will be hamstrung,” Goba said.

He further said that the NPA does not have adequate infrastructural resources throughout the country, as it is using rented accommodation, where it is also facing eviction for failure to pay monthly rentals.

“We are in huge arrears; we are living on borrowed time. It’s a cause for concern. We do not know what tomorrow will bring,” Goba said, adding that prosecutors need modern equipment in their offices, well-equipped libraries, office furniture in order for them to function effectively.

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