Tinomudaishe Chinyoka Correspondent
Shamila Batohi is the head of the South African National Prosecuting Authority. You see, they also have an NPA in South Africa, just like we do. And, like they, we also appointed a new NPA boss round about the same time as they did, Kumbirai Hodzi.
James Grant is a Johannesburg- based advocate. When the public interviews for the new NPA boss were held, it is said that he had another person is mind as the possible winner. His preferred candidate was not appointed. Likely because, as here, the final authority lies with the president. Just as President Mnangagwa decided that Kumbirai Hodzi was the winner, President Cyril Ramaphosa decided on Shamila Batohi.
That, sadly, is where the similarities end.
When Shamila Batohi was appointed, James Grant publicly declared that he was offering his services to the NPA pro bono (for free), in order to help the NPA clear their backlog. He said that his help and support for the new NPA boss would be unreserved, because “none of us can afford for Batohi to fail”. And he went a step further, inviting other lawyers and advocates like him to offer support for the new head of the NPA.
National Director of Public Prosecutions, Advocate Shamila Batohi, during her first press conference in Pretoria on February 1 2019.
But, we do things a little different in Zimbabwe.
The moment that Kumbirai Hodzi was appointed, the knives were drawn. People that had listened to the public interviews and those that had merely heard about them, suddenly became experts on the appointment of a PG. Numbers were bandied around, constitutional provisions read to fit a certain narrative.
Despite the fact that the Constitution says nothing about a scoring system that must be used by the Judicial Service Commission, despite the fact that on the scorecards of those commissioners that have actually been Supreme Court judges Hodzi scored higher than most, he was in the collective psyche a failed candidate. No one stopped to think, if it was just about eloquence, why then not open the interviews to non-lawyers? After all, the questions are more about management than about law, aren’t they? I mean, no one was asked to define “qui facit per alium, facit per se” or to wax eloquent about the “fulcrum and the pith”, were they?
Others, more direct in their approach, went to the court. In the space of two weeks, constitutional applications were filed challenging the appointment of the PG by people that perhaps ought to have taken a leaf out of James Grant’s book and offered their services to the PG. After all, if people love their country so much that they will donate their legal services to taking a good man down, why not do so to help him be not just good, but better?
And in all this, a large number followed with rapture. Forget that the crisis facing the NPA, nay, our entire justice system, is the scourge of corruption and that we need the NPA now more than ever. Instead, it seems that the majority of people, especially lawyers, believed their role to be that of pointing out just how not eloquent the new PG was at his interview. Years of experience aside, we are collectively going to determine such serious positions on only one criterion?
Why do I say we? Because, unlike in South Africa, not a single voice went out publicly to say that we cannot afford for Kumbirai Hodzi to fail. Not one lawyer offered their services for free to help the NPA overcome the backlog it has, or to rid itself of the endemic corruption that has taken over even its own ranks. When the PG gave a press interview to bemoan corruption among lawyers (which includes lawyers in his department, mind you), even the Law Society was up in arms condemning him, without so much as a “please clarify”.
So, yes, we. Why? Because the fulcrum and the pith of it all is that by supporting the voices of those pulling down Kumbirai Hodzi, we are complicit in what they say. Because by egging on those pulling the PG down, we have acted through them to pull him down. Because you see, “qui facit per alium, facit per se”, which really does mean “he who acts through another does the act himself.”
Unlike the South Africans, we are showing that we can afford for Kumbirai Hodzi to fail.
Sadly, given the task at hand, given the centrality of the office of the Prosecutor-General to the fight against crime and corruption and the due administration of justice, I do not think that we can afford it. We need Kumbirai Hodzi to succeed. Which is why, borrowing from James Grant, all lawyers should be offering their services to his office. For free. Because if we all act, to bring about justice to the NPA, then the NPA will succeed, and we bring about justice to Zimbabwe. If we all help, and succeed in helping, then the PG will not fail. He will be acting through all of us lawyers. Because, like it or not, “qui facit per alium, facit per se”.
We cannot afford for the Prosecutor-General to fail.