I can’t amend Section 121: Tomana
By Bridget Mananavire
HARARE – Attorney General (AG) Johannes Tomana has dismissed calls by the coalition government to work on amending Section 121 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act (CPEA) as misdirected.
The three government principals President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara met last month and directed that Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, Tomana and police commissioner general Augustine Chihuri meet to find ways of amending Section 121.
But Tomana said the directive was outside his leverage and should be channelled to the legislature, which has powers to making authority.
“I do not have such power in lawmaking. I am only there to enforce it. It is amended by Parliament,” Tomana said.
Section 121 of the CPEA gives prosecutors power to keep accused persons who would have been granted bail in remand prison for a further seven days to allow the state time to lodge an appeal against bail.
Politicians, civil society groups and human rights lawyers have in the past accused prosecutors of abusing the law to punish people who would have been granted bail.
Briefing journalists after the principals’ meeting, Mutambara said those falling foul to the use of the law had been victims of injustice.
“Many people have fallen victim to this section. Some serve jail terms before they are released because of this section,” he said.
Recently, officers of an independent media monitoring body, Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe, Fadzai December and Molly Chimhanda and another official Gilbert Mabusa fell victim to Section 121 after being charged with “knowingly failing to give notice of a gathering” in terms of Section 25 of the Public Order and Security Act (Posa).
After being granted bail with no conditions, the state prosecutor invoked Section 121 of the CPEA to suspend the bail order.
A human rights lobby group, Amnesty International, early this year raised concern over the failure by prosecution authorities in Zimbabwe to respect the right of accused persons to a fair trial in politically motivated prosecutions.
“In particular, the organisation is concerned about the unjustified invocation of Section 121 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act to prolong the detention of activists who have been granted bail by the courts,” the organisation said.
Tomana defended the use of the law by his officers, saying it was meant to protect the public from perpetrators of violence who had the capacity to commit more crimes if released on bail.
“It will be misguided to remove an appeal that is there for civil protection. There are certain things which should not be politicised,” he said.
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