Justice and Legal Affairs minister Patrick Chinamasa has no respect for Attorney-General (AG) Johannes Tomana because of the “clumsy manner and legal incompetence his office often demonstrated”.
This was said to United States Ambassador Charles Ray by former Deputy Minister of Justice Jessie Majome in a meeting in which she revealed her days in the ministry under Chinamasa were a “fight against marginalisation”.
During the November 5 meeting, Ray wrote in a cable posted to Washington: “She also told us that Chinamasa held Tomana in low regard because of the clumsy manner and legal incompetence his office often demonstrated.”
Majome reportedly said she was in one instance shouted at by Secretary for Justice David Mangota, during a meeting and also that she had managed to unearth anomalies in the ministry despite the hostility.
“One illustrative example occurred in a conversation between Majome and Mangota, which began with Mangota accusing Majome of abusing government funds and ended with him screaming accusations at her.
“Similarly, Attorney-General Tomana has openly told her that she is subordinate to him within the ministry because he sits in Cabinet and she does not.”
Tomana sits in Cabinet as an ex officio member because he is the chief government legal officer, but within the ministry, Majome is bureaucratically superior to both Tomana and Mangota.
Majome, who was reassigned by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai last year to Deputy Minister of Women Affairs, discussed among other issues her experiences working in a ministry led by Zanu PF stalwarts Chinamasa and Tomana.
Majome has been replaced by Obert Gutu, who now deputises Chinamasa.
“In spite of a hostile work environment, Majome holds a measure of respect for Minister of Justice Chinamasa, describing him as ‘frank and open’ and a proponent of professionalism. When she assumed her position, Chinamasa directed the Ministry’s 11 department heads to give her an in-briefing.
“Tellingly, Tomana, who is housed within the ministry, but also serves as the government’s chief legal adviser refused the directive, as did Mangota,” the cable read.
However, the cable said despite her difficult position, Majome relished the opportunity to gather information within the controversial ministry on the prisons system, which she said had become militarised with retiring soldiers assuming jobs intended to be filled by the civilian prison service.
Majome also said this has also occurred in the AG’s Office where soldiers have replaced technicians and legal aides.
She said Tomana had dismissed professional prosecutors, citing charges of criminal abuse of office being levelled against one senior prosecutor who once refused to invoke a controversial measure challenging a defendant’s bail.
Occasionally, Chinamasa would slip up in her presence, such as when he mentioned that Tomana had attended a Zanu PF caucus in his official capacity.
She said it was a mistake as constitutionally the AG was supposed to be a non-political actor.