How did Johannes Tomana sleep-walk onto the sanctions list?

OPINION: The imposition of a travel ban and an asset-freeze on Zimbabwe’s Attorney General, Johannes Tomana in December 2010 by the United States (US) Government was long overdue and a big wake-up call on the country’s Chief Law Officer.

It was long overdue because Tomana should have been banned in June 2008 when as deputy AG, he allegedly advised the government that it was legal to detain MDC supporters without trial contrary to provisions of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

Wake-up call

The travel ban is a wake-up call on the Attorney General whose controversial appointment and that of Governor of the Reserve bank of Zimbabwe, Gideon Gono have stalled the coalition government’s efforts towards national healing.

The country still awaits the prosecution of those who were named as responsible for the abduction and torture of the human rights activist Jestina Mukoko. The AG is expected to call for a full investigation into the seven MDC activists who were abducted and are still missing, namely: Gwenzi Kahiya, Lovemolre Machokoto, Charles Muza, Ephraim Mabeka, Edmore Vangirayi, Peter Munyanyi and Graham Matehwa.

Selective prosecutions

It can be fairly argued that Johannes Tomana sleep-walked onto the US sanctions list because he ‘selectively prosecuted political opponents and their perceived supporters in an effort to undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic processes and institutions’ according to the Director of the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), Adam J. Szubin.

"Johannes Tomana’s targeting of selected political opponents threatens the rule of law in Zimbabwe, harms the integrity of the Government of National Unity and counters the will of Zimbabwean people, who have expressed their desire to build a democratic political system" said Mr Szubin (America.gov, 12/21/10).

The AG’s office has been criticised for not prosecuting about 24 people suspected of being members of the Zimbabwe National Army who allegedly committed various criminal offences including politically motivated violence, assault and abduction in Hwedza, Harare, Makoni, Buhera, Gokwe North and Mutare. According to Zimbabwe Democracy Now (01/10/09) one of them led a group in army uniform which allegedly ‘murdered’ three people on 5 May 2008 in Mazowe.

Also of major concern to civil society is Tomana’s failure to prosecute the alleged murderers of MDC activists Tichaona Chiminya and Talent Mabika who were brutally killed ‘in broad daylight’ by a suspected Zanu-pf activist and a state security agent on 15 April 2000 in Buhera, Manicaland.

Land seizures

Following Zimbabwe’s withdrawal from the SADC Tribunal after its ruling in favour of 79 commercial farmers finding that the government’s land seizures were racist, unlawful and violated their rights September 2009 saw an increase in land and farming related violations of the GPA, and approximately 66, 0000 farm workers were left homeless since February 2009.

Questions have been asked why under Johannes Tomana has the office of Attorney General allows Zimbawean citizens to suffer injustice. For example, Robert Anthony McKersie made his 78th court appearance on the same charge in September 2009:"I have been acquitted three times, withdrawn before plea twice, withdrawn before appeal once and I’ve had a High Court order. Six acquittals and I have been in court for the same issue" (sokwanele, 06/10/09).

Amidst reports that members of the Zimbabwe National Army had been deployed to many farms around the country in December 2009, in what analysts saw as a push to remove the last few hundred remaining white commercial farmers, the AG was quoted as saying:

‘Those farmers are actually guilty of breaking the law and they must leave. All the land in the country belongs to the government and as such no individual has the right to disobey a government directive to vacate such’ (thezimbabwemail, 31/12/09; zimdiaspora, 30/12/09).

The harassment of white commercial farmers has only helped to scare foreign investors who are the engines of economic growth and employment creation. Tomana is supposed to uphold the rule of law at Triangle Hippo Valley.

In January 2010 Tomana reportedly said the military would be deployed to remove white commercial farmers ‘who refuse to vacate State owned land’.

Zimbabwe’s Attorney General dismissed a letter sent by human rights lawyers in November 2010 calling for the prosecution of perpetrators of political violence which saw 200 MDC supporters murdered during the bloody period prior to the 2008 presidential election.

Persecution of Roy Bennett

During the trial of MDC Treasurer General Roy Bennett in 2009 who was later acquitted on terrorism charges, Johannes Tomana chose to prosecute in the case and reportedly caused a security nightmare as he arrived at court in his latest S-Class Mercedes Benz with two escort twin cab trucks laden with intelligence officers. The AG’s elaborate security arrangements caused ‘curious stares’ and were unprecedented in Zimbabwe for a government law officer.

At the ‘gruelling 16 months of persecution and 109 court appearances of Roy Bennett’ the AG called upon several witnesses who the judge later described as being of "amazing ignorance" (mdc.co.zw, 19/05/10). One of the 13 state witnesses who was supposed to be an information technology (IT) expert – turned out to be just a cable layer after he was unmasked by Bennett’s award winning defence lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa.

Asked if he knew that there were computer hackers and computer forensic expects, Mutsetse said it was the first time he was hearing of such terms and asked Mtetwa to clarify where the hackers are from and who trained them. Mutsetse had been introduced by Attorney General Johannes Tomana as the provincial engineer for a cable company.

History

According to a transcript of Inside Zimbabwe produced in August 2006 when he was interviewed at his Maryland Farm as the anti-corruption commissioner, Johannes Tomana reportedly said he didn’t always have the good things in life. "As a young child, he worked on a white-owned farm, removing worms from tobacco crops" (pri.org/theworld, 28/08/06).

However, as the new black owner of a farm seized from a white farmer, Tomana was reportedly building brick houses for his farm workers who lived in mud huts under the former white owner.

Fear

In February 2010 Tomana revealed that he was living in fear from anonymous threats and that he needed protection. He told journalists that Zimbabweans at home and those in the Diaspora were threatening him. What happened to the two escort twin cab trucks?

Government efforts to reform the Office of Attorney General by providing for a board to supervise the chief law officer has been found wanting on independence from the executive, low remuneration and corruption.

Witch-hunt

In a move that has been described by critics as ‘chasing rainbows’ Johannes Tomana was expected on Wednesday 12/01/10 to name "a team of practising lawyers" to investigate the alleged "treasonous collusion" between former opposition leaders and Western governments. "From a legal perspective it would be folly", award winning lawyer Beatrice Mtewa has said.

Critics argue that Tomana’s record as the AG ‘is punctuated by a failure to separate politics from the law’ and that he takes cases which a first year law student would decline as it would be obvious there was no chance of success with the case of Peter Histchmann and Roy Bennett being given as an example (theindependent, 30/12/10).

Although George Charamba’s recent ‘verbal diarrhoea’ was entitled "2011: the year when sanctions will go" I foresee Johannes Tomana joining his allies on the EU targeted sanctions list this year unless he restores the rule of law. It is also time full details about the so-called frozen assets of those banned were disclosed for public information and verification of ownership in case they are proceeds of crime. How did they accumulate their wealth when some of them did not have a decent pair of shoes at independence?

Clifford Chitupa Mashiri is a London based Zimbabwean Political Analyst and regular columnist of The Zimbabwe Mail. He can be contacted at zimanalysis2009@gmail.com