Zimbabwe's senior lawyer arrested in power struggle

Rights lawyers in Zimbabwe have expressed their concern over the arrest this week of President Robert Mugabe's prosecutor general, who has been charged with abuse of duty for dropping charges against two men accused of planning to bomb Grace Mugabe's dairy.
Johannes Tomana has displeased Robert Mugabe. Picture: APJohannes Tomana has displeased Robert Mugabe. Picture: AP
Johannes Tomana has displeased Robert Mugabe. Picture: AP

The arrest of top government lawyer Johannes Tomana on Monday is “not in any way acceptable” because under Zimbabwe’s new constitution he is guaranteed the right to exercise his powers independently, said the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.

Ironically, the same group of rights lawyers has had to defend dozens of Mugabe opponents dragged before the courts by Mr Tomana’s office in recent years.

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Analysts believe the unpopular senior lawyer has fallen victim to the factional wars pitting top officials in Mugabe’s party against one another as they jostle for power.

Mr Tomana, 48, was brought to court on Tuesday afternoon. Critics watched as the prosecutor general was forced to undergo some of the humiliations he has routinely imposed on opposition supporters.

Washington-based international human rights expert Jeffrey Smith said in an interview: “Tomana has been abusing his office and defeating the course of justice in Zimbabwe for years, and that’s why his arrest is rather surprising. He has been a chief enforcer of ZANU-PF repression and an avowed supporter of President Mugabe and his policies.”

Mr Tomana was bailed until his next scheduled court appearance on 16 February.

The two suspects Mr Tomana freed were re-arrested and charged with treason for “attempting to overthrow the government through unconstitutional means”, and could face the death penalty.