Is Goba incompetent or just a victim of politics?

HARARE - Advocate Ray Goba has had a tumultuous career ever since his days as the deputy Prosecutor-General (PG) for Namibia.

While working in Namibia, he was convicted by that country’s regional court in 2002 for driving a vehicle on a public road with excessive blood alcohol concentration, failing to obey a road traffic sign and attempting to defeat or obstruct the course of justice.

The conviction over his attempt to obstruct or defeat the course of justice, in particular, haunted Goba, who was denied a work and residence permit in Namibia in 2011.

His woes have continued in his home country.

Goba has gone from “appointment as PG to suspension” twice in a period of two years.

He assumed the office after succeeding in interviews which were highly criticised by analysts on the basis of the criminal record he had in Namibia where he was declared a prohibited immigrant.

However, after serving as PG for a year, former president Robert Mugabe chucked him out in late 2017 by rescinding his earlier appointment.

This was done through an extraordinary Government Gazette signed by the chief secretary to the President and Cabinet, Misheck Sibanda — who ironically had earlier issued the previous gazette confirming his appointment.

Goba was viewed as sympathetic to Emmerson Mnangagwa, who, at the time held the dual roles of vice president and Justice minister — before his powers were whittled down by Mugabe in a Cabinet reshuffle before being fired from both the government and Zanu PF in late 2017 at the height of factional fights in the ruling party.

He had been appointed to the position by Mugabe, after serving a year in the job on an interim basis — following the suspension and subsequent sacking of his predecessor, Johannes Tomana, who was found guilty of gross incompetence and misconduct.

Goba retained his position when Mnangagwa assumed the reins of government, following the fall of Mugabe in November last year.

This followed a military intervention code-named Operation Restore Legacy, which saw the nonagenarian and his much-disliked wife Grace being placed under house arrest.

However, less than a year down the line Goba has been suspended from the office pending the outcome of a probe which could see him being sacked for the second time.

The secretary for the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), Walter Chikwanha, wrote to Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi regarding the probe — with the matter later being escalated to Mnangagwa, who formally instituted the investigation.

This was after the Justice ministry had apparently decided there were “sufficient grounds” for a preliminary investigation.

There are several sanctions that Goba could face if he is found guilty of the allegations he is facing, and this includes warnings and his total removal from office — depending on the circumstances.

Section (259) (7) of the Constitution says the PG can only be removed from office by a tribunal, after a judicial inquiry.

The legal fraternity has scoffed at the move as being reflective of the confusion characterising the current regime.

“I think generally the office of PG in Zimbabwe in itself has become a controversial position taking into account that three of the Attorney Generals including Ray Goba have left the position unceremoniously,” lawyer Marufu Mandevere said.

“All have gone through disciplinary hearings and it has become one of the least motivational positions in the legal progression.

“We all know Goba was said to be the best candidate from those who were interviewed and the panel knew of his escapades in Namibia at the time of the interview but appointed him.

“There was certainly serious controversy and questions on his appointment and I, however, do not think he was the best to serve the interests of both factions...”

Mandevere added: “The current suspension cannot be separated from the continued factional fights in the ruling party.

“The problem with all those appointments is that they are becoming more political than any other consideration and as long as that office is used for political reasons we will have continued instability at the of the PG.”

Another lawyer Gift Mtisi views the office of the PG as “cursed and in need of political cleansing if the administration of justice is to be done objectively without interference”.

Another legal expert Tarisai Mukwacha said the office of the PG has become a victim of politics.

“It is common cause that the office of the Prosecutor-General is enabled by a constitutional provision. It is regrettable, however, that the office is abused by government and politics of the day — a trend manifesting itself in Zimbabwe,” Mukwacha said.

“…from the days of (Sobuza) Gula (Ndebele) to Tomana, now Goba politics has had an influence on assumption and departure from that office.”

Prominent lawyer Lovemore Madhuku said it was unfortunate that political actors were playing political games with the office of the PG.

“… when they (new dispensation) took him back they wanted to show they were different from Mugabe and that it was Mugabe’s decision not to appoint him and swear him into office now they want to use him as a basis that they are fighting corruption…now they claim he has not been dealing with corruption cases,” Madhuku said.

Sources who spoke on his recent suspension said Goba was facing a slew of allegations, ranging from his alleged failure to prosecute high profile corruption cases to allegedly using abusive language and entering Namibia despite being a prohibited immigrant there.

It is also being claimed that Justice minister Ziyambi — whose wife Florence is said to have had several run-ins with Goba, could be out to settle old scores with him.

Florence, who was Goba’s deputy, was in March shunted to the Office of the President and Cabinet, where she now works from as a government lawyer.

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