ATTORNEY-GENERAL Johannes Tomana says he has no powers to appoint a commission to probe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (pictured) or anyone over the contents of diplomatic cables released by whistleblower website, WikiLeaks.
In an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent, Tomana rubbished profusely recent reports attributed to him in the state-controlled media that he was on the verge of appointing a commission, comprising lawyers, to probe alleged treasonous statements attributed to Tsvangirai and other Zimbabweans in conversations with US diplomats.
“I do not have the powers to appoint a commission or committee,” said Tomana. “If you look at the scenarios around the appointment of commissions, it must be of national importance and it is only the president who can appoint a commission. Our powers are vested in Section 76 of the constitution. I do not know where all this is coming from.”
Tomana could not say why he did not rebut the statements attributed to him in the media on the issue.
Section 76 and the subsequent sub-sections do not empower the AG’s office to appoint commissions as this is a preserve of the president under the Commissions of Inquiry Act.
A subsection of Section 76 of the constitution states that: “The president may, when he considers it advisable, by proclamation, appoint a commission of inquiry consisting of one or more commissioners and may authorise the commissioner or commissioners or any quorum of them specified in the proclamation to inquire into the conduct of any officer in the Public Service, the conduct of any chief appointed in terms of the Chiefs and Headmen Act [Chapter 29:01], the conduct or management of any department of the Public Service or of any public or local institution, or into any matter in which any inquiry would, in the opinion of the president, be for the public welfare.”
According to the state-controlled media, Tomana issued a statement over the Christmas holidays saying: “The WikiLeaks appear to show a treasonous collusion between local Zimbabweans and the aggressive international world, particularly the United States. With immediate effect, I am going to instruct a team of practising lawyers to look into the issues that arise from the WikiLeaks.”
On Wednesday this week, The Herald quoted Tomana saying the commission was likely to be appointed later that day, a claim the AG dismissed.
“I did not issue that statement,” Tomana said yesterday referring to the Christmas Day press statement. “In fact, I did not issue any statement on the matter.”
Tomana’s denial, political analysts said, exposed possible underhand manoeuvres to exploit the leaks for political gain, with MDC-T leader Tsvangirai the target of such machinations, particularly with elections likely to be held later in the year.
The analysts said hardliners in Zanu PF and government were likely behind the move to instigate a Tsvangirai probe. Tsvangirai was quoted in two of the 10 cables from the United States embassy in Harare so far released by WikiLeaks saying sanctions should remain in force.
Tomana’s denial and professed ignorance on the appointment of the commission adds a new dimension to an already confusing situation.
Hardliners, the analysts said, could be trying to put the AG, who in the past has been accused of taking up frivolous cases for political purposes, under pressure or hiding behind his office to cause further friction in the unity government.
Zanu PF supporters have, since the release of the cables been trying to use them as a platform to institute treason charges against Tsvangirai and other political opponents.
Legal experts, however, say it would be very difficult to mount a credible case.