What is happening at Newsday? TI-Z response to 15 March NewsDay article on Tomana

PRESS RELEASE – On Tuesday 15 March, Newsday commented on the TI-Z report on Attorney Johannes Tomana entitled, Tomana’s reign as Attorney General: a trail of questionable decisions.

According to the article written by the recently promoted Political Editor, Kelvin Jakachira ‘Newsday did its own investigations and resolved that Tomana handled the four cases mentioned in the report in a transparent manner’. In other words, Newsday’s investigations clear Tomana of any alleged wrongdoing. Furthermore, the newly appointed Editor Mr Brian Mangwende even calls TI-Z conduct ‘unconstitutional insinuations’. Curiously, the Newsday investigations simply ignored the facts raised in the actual TI-Z report and surprisingly didn’t quote the several personalities mentioned in the report save for their ‘source’. One would think that the journalist would also have conducted TI-Z for a comment on their new findings. Had the Newsday journalist cared to read the entire report, he would have had the answers sooner and spared himself the curious article he wrote. Newsday has a right to its own opinion. However, the paper has no right to its own facts. The allegations of corruption raised by TI-Z against AG Tomana are substantiated by facts and law hence the call for criminal investigations. The report was very clear and supported the allegations with facts. It is puzzling that the Newsday had to rush to absolve Tomana even before the authorities with that mandate have concluded on the matter. More worrying is how the paper simply refuses to be objective in the face of glaring facts.

To be specific, Newsday commented on all four cases. All of them in a problematic way. Here is some homework for the ‘source’ used by Newsday:

1) Investigations on Dr Basile’s case involving over 219 counts of criminal misconduct which saw the state prejudiced of 5025 litres of diesel and 9982 litres of petrol; it is the State not TI-Z which argued that Basile’s behavior led to loss of life of Zimbabweans. Newsday’s investigations contradict the testimony of the State through the then Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Mr. Edward Mabhiza and 8 other witnesses. More so, TI-Z argued that the manner in which the AG stopped the trial suggests that the trial prosecutor was not consulted for his views prior to the instruction since he had already called eight witnesses to testify against Basile. Surely if there was an arrangement with the Prison Service as Newsday argues,it would not have been known to Dr Basile alone and indeed the AG would have mentioned that amongst the reasons for stopping the prosecution. Unfortunately, the only reason why Dr. Basile’s case was stopped was because the AG’s office said that ‘it was not in the interest of the State to pursue the matter’. There was no elaboration which normally is critical on cases as serious as the Basile one. Does Newsday know what even the AG didn’t know? TI-Z believes the AG’s office in a way undermined the efforts of the Anti Corruption Commission and the Police who had painstakingly collected and collated evidence of the corruption allegations. This discourages diligence of law enforcement agencies when their work is disregarded in the manner the Attorney General did in the Basile case. Why would law enforcement agents bother collecting information on prominent officials when the AG’s office can always stop prosecution for confusing reasons like the one given by Chief Law Officer Michael Mugabe? How can it not be in the State’s interest to prosecute a public official facing the serious charges Dr Basile was facing?

2) The Newsday conveniently left out another serious allegation raised in the report. Dr Basile allowed or caused the purchase of medical drugs on 14 occasions from Medwise Pharmacy and from Cypred Pharmacy without going to tender. A publishing house like Newsday is better placed to know that basic procurement procedures demand that such business be done through tenders. Not going to tender is even dangerous when it involves drugs and for the AG’s office to ignore such serious criminal misconduct is baffling. Does Newsday honestly believe there is no case to answer in not going to tender so many times and in violation of obvious regulations? It makes one wonder whether truth in the Tomana case still matters for some personalities at Newsday.

3) In another case, Newsday curiously absolves Tomana in the Patrick Mavros issue. On 11 September 2009, four detectives from Criminal Investigations Department, Detective Inspector Mastock, Detective Sergeant Jena, Detective Sergeant Makavi and Detective Ncube proceeded to Mavros’s residence where Mavros initially misinformed the detectives that he only dealt in ivory and silver. The detectives searched his house and found 9kgs of gold valued at $255 501.67. Mavros had no gold license on the occasion. That in itself is inexcusable and breaking the law. Mavros himself admitted to the charge. Police recorded statements form Mining Commissioner Ivan Chihota from Ministry of Mines who indicated that Mavros’ license had expired in 2007. The permit was not renewed because Mavros failed to pay US$1000 renewal fee to Ministry of Mines. In other words, Mavros had no license because he didn’t pay the renewal fee. Should we all keep such big amounts of gold or even diamonds without licenses? Why did Newsday not include the reasons why Mavros had no license and in turn choose to defend such dangerous behavior? The police also recorded a statement from the Secretary of the Jewelry Council of Zimbabwe Mr. Dennis Balon who indicated that Mavros was also not a member of the Jewelry Council of Zimbabwe. This information is in the report and for Newsday to fail to report this is also troubling. The same applies to all the remaining ‘investigations’ by Newsday. The answers are in the report and Newsday has the report but it appears the Editor and the journalist who covered the story simply ignored the facts. What is happening at Newsday? A lot of what is documented in the report can be verified by the annexures in the report and the several courageous civil servants mentioned. One expects Newsday to at least recognize the efforts of the civil servants who worked so hard to promote the law and order in this country with specific emphasis on the Tomana issue.

4) It gets even worse when Newsday comments on the Bright Matonga case involving the death of a passenger (Chipo Chikowore) he was carrying when his vehicle hit a carcass on their way to Mhondoro Ngezi. Thereafter, the AG’s office declined to prosecute Matonga on the basis that it served no purpose because Matonga had already suffered the loss of his relative, Chipo Chikowore. The decision to decline prosecution was arrived at without consultation with the prosecutor or the deceased’s relatives. Moreover, negligently causing the death of a relative does not per se earn one an automatic stay of prosecution. Indeed, the courts are full of prosecutions where the accused and the deceased are related and that has never been a legal basis to decline to prosecute. It is not sound reasoning to argue that if a relative dies when you are driving, there is no need for prosecution because you have already suffered loss. The Newsday is known to be more analytic than what we read in their 15 March article. In any case, there was no evidence that the deceased was Matonga’s relative. In fact, it was also established that Bright Matonga did not attend Chipo Chikowore’s funeral as would have been expected of a close relative especially if it was also his driving that led to her death.

5) There are several other questionable conclusions arrived at by the Newsday journalist which we will not exhaustively comment on. The full report on Mr. Johannes Tomana is available to the public and it has been handed over to the authorities whom we advise to speed up reading and take action on the report. Newsday’s curious handling of the information carried in the report has motivated TI-Z to circulate the report more widely so that interested Zimbabweans can read for themselves and make their own conclusions. The report is made up of court records and statements from various arms of the state and a lot of the information provided cannot be easily dismissed as ‘rubbish’ as Tomana has reportedly said. It is our hope that the Newsday journalist gets back to objective and impartial analysis. What is happening? TI-Z and the general public have been left wondering if this kind of reporting is what will characterize the reign of the new editorial appointments within Newsday.

TI-Z notes and appreciates the independence of the Office of the Attorney General. However, the manner in which Mr. Tomana handled the cases referred in the report points to serious abuse of office on his part. He has to be subject of a criminal investigation. The call for an investigation into the conduct of Mr Tomana was first made by the Regional Magistrate Mrs. L. Kudya who presided over the Charles Nherera trial (which is extensively reported in the TI-Z report). In her judgement, she opined that Tomana had a ‘‘reason to paint a particular picture of events to the court’’ about Nherera’s involvement in the bribery saga and that his evidence had to be treated with ‘utmost caution’, thus the Magistrate relegated Tomana to a position akin to that of an accomplice or an interested party. TI-Z is simply calling for investigations as has been done by some of the courts of law in Zimbabwe.

Investigations into the office of the Attorney General also have precedence. Mr. Tomana’s immediate predecessor Mr. Sobusa Gula Ndebele was arrested and charged with conduct which is contrary to or consistent with the duties of a public officer as defined in Section 174 (i) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform Act). Gula Ndebele was later dismissed by the President and the matter was challenged and it is still pending in the Supreme Court. It also even happened with Justice Paradza, a High Court judge who was arrested and later convicted for obstruction of justice. If Justice Paradza and Attorney General Sobusa Gula Ndebele’s were subjected to the law, there is nothing untoward for Mr. Tomana to be investigated under the raised allegations. There is nothing that should stop the State from doing a criminal investigation into the conduct of Tomana on this matter. TI-Z hopes Newsday will at least acknowledge facts in the report which are so glaringly overlooked in its 15 March article and at least allow readers to see the TI-Z’s response to the paper’s insinuations.

Brian Mangwende and Kelvin Jakachira are senior journalists in Zimbabwe whose resumes are known to many people. Admittedly, they have done a lot of remarkable things in their careers. However, the 15 March article is not only out of character, but it is also troubling in its lack of rigor and balance. Could there be a story behind the story?