THE Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) is under siege from police and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) officials, amid growing scepticism and tensions about its willingness and capacity to investigate corruption cases.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who runs an outfit of prosecutors of dubious legal standing, the Special Anti-Corruption Unit headed by Thabani Vusa Mpofu, a controversial figure, swore in Zacc chairperson Loice Matanda-Moyo — widow of the ex-foreign affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo — into her current position on 30 May 2019 at State House in Harare amid grand promises to fight corruption without fear or favour.
Sibusiso Busi Moyo, widely known as SB, was the power behind Matanda-Moyo. He was the face of the military coup which brought Mnangagwa to power in 2017 after ousting the late former president Robert Mugabe.
However, police and NPA officials say Zacc has now deteriorated into a largely toothless bulldog just barking at corrupt bigwigs, mainly in government, Zanu PF and the corporate world, both in the public and private domains — like a dog barking at a moving train, or up the wrong tree without decisive and sustainable action.
A senior Zacc official told The NewsHawks yesterday: “Zacc could have done a better job if it was willing or able to fulfill its mandate; an independent, well-resourced and efficient anti-corruption commission can be a strong weapon in the fight against corruption, but they need support from the government, judiciary and law enforcement agents if they are to do their jobs effectively. What is happening now is a major disappointment. We have been reduced to spectators in the anti-corruption campaign.”
An NPA official said Zacc is currently struggling to execute its mandate and duties. “Besides all this, Zacc needs independence; they need to establish their credentials as independent investigators dedicated to fighting corruption both inside and outside government,” the official said.
Police have also been exasperated by Zacc’s inefficiency and incapacity. Lack of political will, low funding and poor investigative skills are mainly sabotaging Zacc’s ability to do its job well.
Zacc on Thursday came under serious attack from prosecutor Reginald Chaora in Court 15 at the Rotten Row Magistrates’ Court in Harare for allegedly frustrating the prosecution of corruption cases through undue delays and inexcusable failures to provide dockets and court documents.
Court authorities told The NewsHawks that Chaora’s negative sentiments against Zacc were widely shared within the police and the NPA, adding he spoke after a meeting of critical staff, which included experienced prosecutors and their bosses.
NPA staffers say dockets from Zacc are usually chaotic, weak and not actionable, thus making it difficult for legal action to be taken and also to secure convictions. This comes as police have withdrawn their investigating officers from Zacc, further incapacitating and immobilising the anti-corruption body.
Several high-level corruption cases have been dismissed in court because of lack of evidence or wrong charges being applied. Only those officials who have fallen out with Mnangagwa and his government are thoroughly prosecuted for political expediency and personal vendettas. Chaora expressed frustration over Zacc’s incompetence during the appearance of Chief Public Prosecutor Clement Chimbare, who is being charged with abuse of office and bribery allegations over the illegal sale of stands in Harare’s Kuwadzana suburb in a US$1 million scam.
Chimbare, who is being represented by lawyers Givemore Madzoka and Webster Jiti, was arrested in 2020, but is yet to be tried. The trial has taken too long to commence. This has frustrated police and prosecutors who, behind the scenes, always lambast Zacc as hopeless.
The state has been postponing the case due to Zacc’s failure to provide documents needed for prosecution. During the Chimbare case hearing on Thursday, the state conceded that the matter was taking too long.
“Seeing that it is lunch time, I am going to be brief. The state is fully aware that this matter is coming for trial, but it would like to seek the indulgence of the court in applying for the postponement of the matter to 14 February 2022.
“It is ordinarily not good for the state to castigate other stakeholders that we work with in the justice delivery system, but in this case it is just that I should state that this postponement that the state seeks in this matter, as with other postponements that happened before, were due to the lack of cooperation that the NPA is getting from Zacc who are the investigators in this case,” Chaora said.
In a public fallout between the state and Zacc, Chaora further complained that he was facing numerous challenges from the investigators, while a request for documents has fallen on deaf ears. He said the failure to provide documents had also resulted in Chimbare failing to adequately prepare his defence, an issue which his defence lawyers have consistently raised.
Chaora said a request for documents in writing made on 10 November last year had not been responded to, showing how lackadaisical and incompetent Zacc is.
“I must point it out to the court that since 10 November 2021 until now, Zacc has not responded. In fact, we were only given the docket for this case today at 9am after we had made several requests for it to be released to us,” Chaora said.
“I can’t let Zacc go to town castigating the NPA for taking too much time to bring the accused to court. It is now the time truth be told starting with this case.”
The prosecutor said dockets, documents and information were not availed, and Zacc investigator Eric Chacha should be called to explain why. Chacha is accused by police commissioner Erusmus Makodza, who was arraigned for allegedly helping a girlfriend to lease a police farm, of abuse of public office.
Zacc is conspicuous by its silence on this and other internal allegations of corruption, compromising its integrity and credibility.
In the Chimbare case, the defence agreed to postponement of the matter, with Jiti saying: “I must concede that I have not heard such a brutally honest application being made in this court and as the defence we agree to the postponement.”
Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed the withdrawal of their officers from Zacc, but said the investigators had completed their mandate.
“In terms of the deployment of police officers at the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, it is a fact that the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and Zacc enjoy cordial relations such that personnel are seconded to Zacc, but once they complete their terms of reference they come back,” he said.
“This is not linked to corruption or anything else. By the way, this is also not the first time that the ZRP has seconded personnel to Zacc and recalled them after finishing their mission. You must also bear in mind that Zacc now has its own investigators.”
Zacc has widely been described as a toothless bulldog. For instance, an attempt to prosecute former Transport and Energy minister Joram Gumbo, who was in 2019 arrested and hauled before the courts on criminal abuse of office charges arising from four separate counts of corruption involving US$37 million, were frustrated after Mnangagwa reportedly protected him.
In a subsequent cabinet reshuffle, Mnangagwa demoted Gumbo, but retained him in his office as minister of State for Presidential Affairs (Monitoring and Implementation of Government Programmes).
Last year, High Court Justice Pisirayi Kwenda quashed all three corruption charges levelled against former Health minister Obadiah Moyo after ruling the offences were defective. Moyo had been on remand since his arrest in June 2020 after he illegally approved tenders worth US$60 million in the procurement of Covid-19 personal protective equipment (PPE).
Kwenda said the state did not elaborate on how Moyo influenced the awarding of tenders. He said the former minister was brought on improper charges and no criminal trial could arise from the charges.
While Zacc has produced a report saying Health deputy minister John Mangwiro influenced NatPharm to award a US$5.6 million Covid-19 tender to a company in which he had a personal interest, Zacc has failed to nail him.
NatPharm blocked the company — Young Health Care Limited — from getting the tender to supply vital Covid-19 materials even after the firm had reduced its inflated quotation by a staggering US$2.6 million.