The Sunday News
Brian Chitemba, Harare Bureau
The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) has made a request to be granted prosecutorial powers in order to expeditiously process graft cases through the newly established Anti-Corruption Courts.
Currently, only the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is constitutionally mandated to prosecute cases.
However, the Prosecutor-General, through the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, can issue a certificate of prosecution to a private party when the State declines to charge an accused person.
Zacc Commissioner, John Makamure told our Harare Bureau that the proposal is designed to quicken the prosecution of corruption cases.
“Yes, we have made representations to be granted those powers. (The) matter is under consideration. We are of the strong view that Zacc must be granted powers to prosecute corruption cases, while the NPA must concentrate on other numerous criminal matters. This will certainly speed up prosecution of corrupt cases. Zacc can prosecute through the recently established Anti-Corruption Courts.”
Government launched specialised anti-corruption courts in March last year. There are currently five such courts in Harare, Bulawayo, Masvingo, Manicaland and Gweru. Zacc was given arresting powers in July through Statutory Instrument 143 of 2019.
However, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said he had not yet received the request. He, however, emphasised that the corruption-busting body should concentrate on “thorough investigations”.
“I do not know about that, but the Constitution gives NPA powers to prosecute. As for Zacc, I think they have to strengthen their investigating process. If they do thorough investigations, then the NPA can also find it easy to prosecute suspects in court,” he said.
In addition to releasing $43 million to Zacc, Treasury has also given it the nod to hire 60 additional staff members to boost investigations, systems and compliance, public education departments and other support services such as finance, audit and risk, ICT and procurement.
Sixty percent of the budget — about $25 million — will be earmarked to give oomph to investigations.
Commissioner Makamure said: “Due to frightening levels of grand corruption (high-level corruption), the commission has decided to allocate 60 percent of its resources to investigations and the remaining 40 percent to prevention programmes.”
Writing in an inaugural bi-weekly column that will be carried by our sister paper the Sunday Mail, Zacc — which has since completed its five-year strategic plan (2020-2024) — said it was particularly committed to exhaustively investigate grand corruption.
Already, more than 60 of the 200 high-profile cases were at “advanced stage of investigations” and “dockets for several cases have been submitted to the NPA for prosecution”.
Commissioner Makamure said part of Zacc’s mission was to recover ill-gotten wealth.
Assets worth $100 million have reportedly been recovered. Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) estimates that US$500 million worth of assets are lost annually through corruption.
“Conviction alone is not enough. We would like to see assets recovered from the culprits for the benefit of the nation. Zacc is strengthening its asset recovery unit in order to recover this wealth for the country,” he said.
As part of its five-year strategic plan (2020-2024) to enhance efficiency, Zacc will from next year establish offices in provinces to deal with corruption cases. This process will be funded by the 2020 Budget. The commission plans to complement the strategic plan by creating a solid National Anti-Corruption Strategy through incorporating views from the public. Provincial consultative meetings will be held in the coming weeks. A new law to protect whistleblowers is presently being worked on.
It is believed that although the Prevention of Corruption Act protects whistleblowers, there is further need to ensure their security.
Seven witnesses have so far testified in the corruption case involving former National Social Security Authority (Nssa) general manager Elizabeth Chitiga. Former Harare City Council bosses Sekesai Makwavarara and Tendai Mahachi presently have cases before the courts. The NPA is also prosecuting Zesa chief executive officer Joshua Chifamba and ex-Energy and Power Development Minister Elton Mangoma. Further the court also wants businessman Wicknell Chivayo to answer to charges of allegedly paying Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) ex-board chair Stanley Kazhanje a bribe.
Kazhanje, who has since been convicted by the Harare Magistrates’ Court, is out on bail pending appeal.
Head of the Special Anti-Corruption Unit (Sacu) in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Thabani Mpofu, said an appeal would be lodged against Kazhanje.
Another corruption-related case pending in the courts is that of former Mines and Mining Development Minister Walter Chidhakwa and his then Permanent Secretary Professor Francis Gudyanga.
Former Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister, Prisca Mupfumira, is out on bail for corruption charges involving $95 million allegedly siphoned from Nssa.
Zacc is also hunting for former Nssa board chair Robin Vela for charges related to Mupfumira’s corruption cases.