NEWLY-appointed prosecutor-general (PG) Kumbirai Hodzi got a taste of the complexities of his job when President Emmerson Mnangagwa gave him a stern warning to steer clear of corruption and to toe the line if he is to last in office during a briefing soon after he was sworn in at State House in Harare recently.
According to senior government officials who attended the closed-door briefing, Mnangagwa warned Hodzi in no uncertain terms that he did not want him to think that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) operates independent of the head of state.
Hodzi was controversially appointed PG following public interviews which were held by the Judicial Service Commission in November last year despite coming fifth out of the 10 candidates for the top job.
Mnangagwa had rejected the three front runners, Calvin Mantsebo, Tinomudaishe Chinyoka and Misheck Hogwe and requested the JSC to submit three fresh names.
The sources said, Mnangagwa categorically reminded Hodzi that he was assuming a difficult job, which a string of his predecessors left because of the problems associated with it.
Hodzi replaced Ray Goba, who resigned last year.
At the time of his resignation, Goba was facing charges of failing to prosecute high-profile corruption cases forwarded to his office by investigating agencies, sneaking out of the country without cabinet authority, entering Namibia despite being a prohibited immigrant in that country and using abusive language, as well as insulting lawyers. His suspension followed recommendations made by the JSC to the President to set up a tribunal to investigate him for the alleged misconduct.
Goba had replaced Johannes Tomana, whom former president Robert Mugabe sacked at the recommendation of a tribunal which had been instituted to investigate allegations of misconduct, incompetence and obstruction of justice.
However, in February last year, the High Court acquitted Tomana of all criminal charges he was facing.
Tomana’s precedessor, Sobusa Gula-Ndebele, was also fired after a tribunal found him guilty of “conduct inconsistent with public office” in 2008.
“This new prosecutor-general, the President had a tough talk with him soon after his swearing in,” a senior government official.
The source told the Zimbabwe Independent Mnangagwa said to Hodzi that: “Now that I have sworn you in, you have to look back at the history of the office you are moving into. None of your predecessors left office on account of retirement. Don’t add to that statistic. They all left because they had issues there. It is a constitutional office; we will see how you handle it. Many will come inviting you to go to Victoria Falls, to Haiti, and even to the moon. Learn to say no.”
Mnangagwa is also said to have strongly warned Hodzi against touting the independence of the NPA. This is despite the fact that the constitution provides for such independence.
“We know it is an independent office, but you should not wave the independence flag and say you are in an independent office. I want you to know the difference between the aspirational and what is termed realpolitik. Independence is an aspiration, it’s not a reality refined anywhere in the world,” the source said quoting Mnangagwa verbatim
“Anyway, let me clarify things for you, my dear. We have three pillars of the state, namely the judiciary, the legislature and the executive. I am the face of the executive and don’t get influenced by me as the head of the executive or by the chief justice as the head of the judiciary or by speaker of the national assembly as the head of the legislature. But then, do you also know that I am the head of state and that when I operate at that level, all these three pillars are below me? So if you see yourself disregarding that saying you are independent and not come to seek advice from me as the head of state, then there is a problem,” the source quoted Mnangagwa as having said.
As he concluded the briefing, Mnangagwa is said to have asked for Hodzi’s family members who were milling around the State House premises to be called into the meeting, saying to them as soon as they settled down: “Hama dzacho muripapi? Mukaona chikomana ichi chave kufarisa, munochibatsira. (Where are his relatives? When you see him going astray, you should help him).”
Efforts to get a comment from Hodzi were fruitless as he was unreachable on mobile phone.