Lloyd Gumbo Harare Bureau
The arrest of Prosecutor-General, Johannes Tomana popped up in Parliament yesterday with legislators wanting to know government’s position on the matter.
MDC-T legislator, Amos Chibaya, asked leader of government business in Parliament Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa the constitutionality of the arrest of Tomana whose office, the Constitution says was independent.
VP Mnangagwa also oversees the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
Chibaya cited Section 260 (1) (a) of the Constitution which states that; “Subject to this Constitution, the Prosecutor-General is independent and is not subject to the direction or control of anyone.”
Said Chibaya: “The Constitution of this country is very clear that the Prosecutor-General is independent. What is government position on his arrest given that no one should interfere with his prosecutorial role?”
But VP Mnangagwa said: “I’m glad that the honourable member has asked that question and of course, he has exhibited his knowledge about the Constitution in relation to the Prosecutor-General.
“The small extension which he didn’t get in his vocabulary is that when a case is in court, it is sub judice for debate.”
This prompted another MDC-T legislator, Nelson Chamisa to challenge VP Mnangagwa’ submissions arguing that the issue under debate was not sub judice.
“It’s with a heavy heart that I have to come to an opposite conclusion with my learned colleague who happens to be the Vice President of the Republic,” said Chamisa.
“What is sub judice is not what is being asked. It is the practice which has nothing to do with what is under consideration of the court. What is being asked by honourable Chibaya is what we associate with the practice of the infraction and perforation of constitutionalism. I think the honourable Vice President knows that this is a very serious issue. Section 119 of the Constitution gives the power to Parliament to make sure that constitutionalism is respected, is a religion, is a practice and is a habit.
“What we are seeing is a negation of that principle. I think the honourable Vice President will do justice to us as Minister of Justice to give us a just answer. I know we cannot expect anything less than justice from the Minister of Justice.”
But VP Mnangagwa stood his ground insisting that the matter was before the courts and as such he could not debate it.
“The honourable learned junior colleague of mine ( Chamisa) has spoken well. He has said that I am the Minister of Justice and he has all that respect. I do not know why if he respects me, he does not respect my advice that the matter is sub judice and can’t be debated.
“Time will come when we can debate those issues. But for now, the matter is in court-which means that we respect the rule of law,” said VP Mnangagwa.
Tomana appeared in Court on Tuesday charged with criminal abuse of duty as a public officer or alternatively defeating or obstructing the course of justice after he allegedly ordered the release of two men suspected of trying to petrol-bomb the First Family’s Alpha Omega Dairy farm in Mazowe.
Meanwhile, National Assembly Speaker, Advocate Jacob Mudenda said Parliament would soon push contempt of Parliament charges against legislators who miss question time every Wednesday without excuse.
He was responding to a question on why Cabinet ministers continued to abscond from question time.
“We’ve three names of ministers who have sought apology. The rest, I’m not aware of what is happening. My ruling is that this becomes the last appeal and in future which means next week, we will then proceed with Contempt of Parliament in terms of Section 107 (2) of the Constitution,” ruled Adv Mudenda.
Some of the ministers and deputy ministers walked out of the House before question time had lapsed again drawing rebuke from legislators.
VP Mnangagwa responded: “I believe that it is necessary that ministers sit through until the end of the question time. So I will advise my colleagues that they observe that requirement in future.”