IN the interest of truth, I wish to the respond to a report headlined Commissioner blames law in your 17 February edition of The NewsHawks.
In that story, which covered remarks I made at the Integrity Summit recently held by The Accountability Lab, your reporter inaccurately and wrongly captured what I said, while unjustifiably maligning the work of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) which I am a member of.
At that meeting, I raised alarm over the ill-advised and unwarranted attempt to amend by repeal section 174 (1) of the Criminal Codification (Law Reform) Act [Chapter 9:23] (The Code) by Bill H.B.15,22 which is pending before Parliament.
I commented that the section creates the offence of criminal abuse of duty by a public officer, which is the charge most resorted to by Zacc because of the lack of other useful offences in Zimbabwe’s legislation. I advised the meeting that the proposed amendment seeks to introduce a defence of lack of actual knowledge of the duty by the concerned public officer.
I decried how this would further weaken and further blunt the already weak provision and further reduce chances of convictions regarding corruption. I also pointed out that it is not good to amend the law purely in order to create a loophole.
I remarked that if any amendment is to be made to the code it should instead broaden the definition of “public officer” to include officials of parastatals and private companies in which the state holds a stake, as they are currently not specifically mentioned by the definition of it in section 169.
The courts are letting them off the hook on the basis of that technicality as they interpret them not to be public officers. I further urged the improvement of legislative framework to create more criminal offences of corruption, including the repeal and replacement of the present Anti-Corruption Act by a more robust and constitutionally up to date framework such as that proposed by the Zacc Lay Bill.
I finally urged the meeting participants to write submissions to Parliament to reject the Bill and instead move for the strengthening of the legal framework. Your reporter got it so wrong and made an incorrect insinuation that Zacc investigated the Henrietta Rushwaya handbag gold carriage case when it was the police that did so.
He further unjustifiably alleged that Zacc’s integrity is questionable because its cases are “still to be resolved” by the courts when in fact that is the nature of law enforcement — it is a continuous process and not an open-and-shut event.
He further insupportably alleged that I said that the legislature is the one that introduced the proposed defence of ignorance. He thereby also implied that the legislature has already passed the Bill when it is still consulting the public about it. He apparently does not understand that legislation is proposed by the executive, and not by the legislature.
It is in the public interest for reporters to report accurately and truthfully. I therefore request that you rectify the above cited inaccuracies and distortions, and have reporters invest in legislative and legal matters to understand how those processes work so that they can report correctly and informatively, in the process contribute to the fight against corruption. About the writer: Fungayi Jessie Majome is a lawyer with expertise in law reform, constitutional issues and public policy consultancy.
She is also a member of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission. Besides, Majome is a former member of Parliament for Harare West constituency for the MDC-T, first elected in 2008 and then in 2013. She was the chairperson of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.