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Mnangagwa-Tomana: Alliance born out of a hostile encounter



AFTER former Information minister Jonathan Moyo was appointed to cabinet for the first time in 2000, one of the new friends he got to make was the late Zimbabwean ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Johannes Tomana, who was in private legal practice at the time.


Tomana, who died on 6 August at his rural Honde Valley home in Manicaland province after a short illness, was working at Muzangaza & Partners, later renamed Mandaza & Tomana Legal Practitioners where he was admitted as a partner in 2000.

Prior to that, Tomana, who had graduated from the University of Zimbabwe in 1992 before he began practising the following year, worked at Ziumbe & Mutambanengwe Legal Practitioners.

Soon after meeting Moyo, Tomana struck a great relationship with the then new Information minister. They struck a chord on many issues and became close colleagues.

 Moyo trusted Tomana and introduced him to the Office of the President and Cabinet. Tomana started getting some legal work from there.

The relationship grew and reached new heights. After a few consultancies with the Information ministry, Tomana got a big job in 2001: Drafting the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which is commonly referred to as Aippa.

The law, now repealed, caused great controversy in the media as it was widely condemned as draconian and repressive. Before that, the government had introduced the Broadcasting Services Act 2001, passed on 3 April 2001.

It was drafted by prominent Harare lawyer Terrence Hussein, who was also a close Moyo associate. This was followed by the Public Order and Security Act in 2002 introduced by Home Affairs, adopted on 10 January 2002, shortly before the presidential elections and then, more-or-less concurrently, by Aippa.

 Aippa was passed by Parliament on 31 January 2002 and signed into law by the late former president Robert Mugabe on 15 March 2002. It was described as government’s main weapon to stifle independent media reporting in Zimbabwe.

The subsequent series of arrests, intimidation, harassment and control measures which followed Aippa drew national and international criticism. On 29 January 2002, just two days before it was passed, the Parliamentary Legal Committee roundly criticised the Bill as being unconstitutional.

The chairperson of the committee, the late former Zanu PF stalwart and minister Eddison Zvobgo, described the original version of the Bill as “the most calculated and determined assault on our (constitutional) liberties, in the 20 years I served as cabinet minister”. He went on to assail the constitutionality of 16 provisions in the Bill.

The version that was finally adopted differed only slightly from the one subjected to such serious criticism by a parliamentary committee dominated by members of the ruling party. After executing that assignment, Tomana became even more trusted by Moyo.

When a new assignment arose in 2005 at the police to investigate gold dealers, specifically Ian Macmillan, his family and cronies, Tomana was recommended by Moyo to former police commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri. Police needed someone to probe gold dealers in Kwekwe. Tomana took up the assignment.

For a long time, Mnangagwa’s name had been associated with the Macmillan family, notorious for gold dealing and smuggling activities, as well as illicit trade and arrests.

 A report titled Mnangagwa’s Oligarchs: The Heirs of Cecil Rhodes, published by the Daily Maverick in South Africa and other media platforms, has a section on the Macmillans.

“Ian Macmillan and his son Ewan have built a business milling and buying gold around the country from their base in southwestern Zimba bwe. The elder Macmillan is among a small but influential group of white businessmen that supports Mnangagwa’s government,” it says.

“Although the elder Macmillan is retired, he remains influential with his vast contacts in Zanu PF, cultivated over the last four decades. The Macmillans, like other white business tycoons, are not immune to the factional battles that consume the ruling party. “They have been arrested in the past for illegal possession of bullion and gold smuggling, but acquitted or released after paying small fines. Ruling party sources say the arrests are always linked to factional fights in the governing party.

“When one faction believes another is receiving more than its fair share of ‘bribes’, it usually uses the police and the courts to send a message, the sources say. It is a game that white Zimbabwean businessmen are well aware of. In 2003, Macmillan and his son were arrested and charged for smuggling gold worth about US$68 million to South Africa through a syndicate. They were acquitted but have remained in the gold buying business.”

The deep links between Mnangagwa and the Mcmillans were recently further confirmed by Al Jazeera’s Gold Mafia investigation.

However, instead of being like Al Jazeera which was determined to expose Mnangagwa and his gold networks, Tomana was co-opted by the Macmillans. The investigation turned into a newfound friendship.

 Out of that experience, Tomana became Mnangagwa’s ally. That made him an enemy of those who opposed Mnangagwa and supported a rival Zanu PF faction — G40— at the height of Mugabe’s succession battle.

Mnangagwa told mourners at Tomana’s Harare home before his burial at the National Heroes’ Acre: “Our work is politics and not a church organisation.Politics is uniform everywhere even in other countries, I will not explain a lot, save to say I worked with him and elevated him.”

After striking a good friendship over the stalled gold investigation task, Mnangagwa, partly as Justice minister, helped to promote Tomana to rise fast within the system.

And Tomana’s rise was meteoric. He was appointed deputy Attorney-General under Sobusa Gula-Ndebele from 2006 to 2008.

He worked with Justice Bharat Patel who was acting Attorney-General from May to December 2008. Given his newfound political connections, Tomana was also appointed to the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission starting 2005.

At the advent of the Government of National Unity, he was appointed the country’s Attorney-General in 2008 for five years.

That was before his appointment as Prosecutor-General in 2013 after the new constitution came into force. However, he was dismissed in May 2017 after a tribunal found him unsuitable to hold office.

His dismissal was entangled in Zanu PF factional and succession politics. Prior to that in February 2016, Tomana was arrested for alleged abuse of office after the withdrawal of charges against two suspects in the bomb saga at a dairy farm owned by Mugabe.

He was also accused of protecting Munyaradzi Kereke who was facing rape charges. Tomana’s arrest came at a time when the succession battle was dramatically intensifying. Charges against him were later dropped by the High Court.

As he became closer to Mnangagwa, he symmetrically distanced himself from Moyo who recruited him into the system. Tomana became close to Mnangagwa and later the late former CIO senior officer Elias Kanengoni, infamous for shooting the late Patrick Kombayi during the 1990 elections.

After he was frozen out by Mugabe before the November 2017 coup, Tomana only bounced back through a direct personal appeal to Mnangagwa who appointed him Zimbabwean ambassador to the DRC.

Mnangagwa said: “He was expelled from work after that happened and he came to me and told me what he had gone through and asked me if we can do something for him since he was now staying at home. I asked for his suggestion and he said he was no longer happy with working in the country; that is why I appointed him ambassador to DRC (on 28 September 2020). We worked very well. We used to call each other, briefing me about the situation in that country.”

 In 2010, Tomana was put on United States targeted sanctions. And later he was to be involved in fighting sanctions.

The following year, in 2011, as the Attorney-General he launched a court challenge with the European Union Court of Justice against sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe.

In June 2015, Tomana made controversial remarks when he said that 12-year-olds can consent to sexual activity.

This was on the sidelines of the debate on Zimbabwe’s age of consent which was still being deliberated at the Constitutional Court.

On 1 February 2016, as the factional fights in Zanu PF escalated, Tomana was arrested and charged with abuse of office or alternatively defeating or obstructing the course of justice in the case where as Prosecutor-General he had struck a deal with two of the four men accused of attempting to bomb Alpha Omega Dairy farm in Mazowe, a dairy enterprise belonging to Mugabe’s family.

After suspension, Tomana was dismissed for alleged misconduct and incompetence following a tribunal set by Mugabe to probe his recommended dismissal.

He only returned to public service after the coup as ambassador where he remained until his unexpected death.