A NEW United States human rights report on Zimbabwe has flagged a lackadaisical approach to cases of corruption as the major hindrance to fighting the cancer that has infested society.
The report, which was released on Wednesday this week, stated that the judiciary was not vigilant in fighting corruption and although there are laws and pronouncements purportedly fighting corruption, there is little willpower in the courts.
“The law provides criminal penalties for conviction of corruption; however, the government did not implement the law effectively or impartially. Despite government pronouncements, there were numerous reports of government corruption during the year,” reads the report.
“Experts described the problem as ‘catch and release’, where the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) arrested some corrupt officials, often those out of favour with President Mnangagwa, but did not secure convictions through the National Prosecuting Authority, which was responsible for referring all cases to the anti-corruption courts. Government anti-corruption efforts were highly politicised,” adds the report.
The reference to “catch and release” comes from multiple arrests of government officials and little convictions.
Former Health minister Obadiah Moyo was arrested for criminal abuse of office, and on his first appearance in court he paid the bail money of ZW$50 000 in cash, but was later aquitted of the charges. MP for Gokwe Nembudziya Justice Mayor Wadyajena was arrested for diverting funds meant to purchase bale ties for the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe.
He had three charges levelled against him, but has been aquitted of one already. Notable cases are the arrest, conviction and sentencing to 16 months of former Labour and Social welfare minister Petronella Kagonye for diverting 20 laptops for her own use, as well as former Energy and Power Development minister Samuel Undenge to three years for prejudicing the Zimbabwe Power Company of US$12 000.
The former was denied bail pending appeal when she filed for an appeal contesting her sentencing at the High Court, the latter is out on bail pending appeal.
The report adds that despite having the infrastructure to try these corruption cases in every province, the courtrooms have been frequented by non-corruption cases.
“Although the country has specialised anti-corruption courts in all 10 provinces, challenges persisted, including perceptions of political interference, delays in concluding high-profile cases, and a low quality of investigations. Additionally, the anti-corruption courts often displayed political bias and were assigned cases involving activists, journalists, or opposition leaders even though the cases did not relate to corruption. In fact, the establishment of the courts specified they would adjudicate on matters including ‘criminal trials and other matters arising out of or connected with criminal trials’. Independent governmental oversight entities were often constrained politically, and the government ensured they lacked the funding and staffing to carry out their mandates,” read the report.
The institution has also seen suspension and arrests of officials for corruption. A Zacc investigating officer, Ngoni Nduna, was hauled before the courts earlier this month for shielding a fugitive who had three warrants of arrest.
On 22 April 2022, President Emerson Mnangagwa dismissed Zacc commissioner Frank Muchengwa on findings of corruption and gross misconduct.
The report adds that corruption is so deep-rooted that it has been institutionalised.
“Corruption in both the public and private sectors persisted and was highly institutionalised. The country continued to experience both petty and grand corruption, defined respectively by Transparency International Zimbabwe as an ‘everyday abuse of entrusted power by low- to mid-level public officials’ such as by police and local officials and ‘an abuse of high-level power by political elites’. In April, a Transparency International Zimbabwe report identified bribery as rampant and existing within most public in stitutions.”
The report says people in high offices often partake in corrupt dealings with impunity, including cabinet ministers such as July Moyo of the infamous Pomona waste-to-energy deal.
“Cabinet officials, including Local Government minister July Moyo, were involved in several high-profile corruption cases. Moyo was accused of diverting $55 million in public funds and compelling local authorities in a June 14 memo to purchase fire-fighting trucks from Belarus at inflated prices.
Press reports indicated presidential associate Alyaksandr Zingman secured the deal without following public procurement processes.
Moyo also is alleged to have pushed an unduly expensive contract for a Harare City Council dump site without following procurement processes or obtaining mayoral approval,” the report says.
“Corruption concerns over the country’s Covid-19 response continued. In May, parliament’s Public Accounts Committee concurred with the Auditor-General’s 2021 findings that government officials breached the Public Finance Management Act, the Social Welfare Assistance Act, and the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act by misusing public funds meant to combat Covid-19. The committee issued a series of recommendations following its investigation which have not been implemented as of year’s end. Corruption also permeated the government’s Command Agriculture programme and other agricultural programmes such as the President’s Input Scheme.”
The report also notes that there was a huge improvement in terms of cases reported on corruption, but the biggest weakness is that the institution meant to deal with the matter cannot do much beyond arrests.
“In June, Zacc vice-chair Kuziwa Murapa reported the commission had received 1 501 complaints of suspected corruption in 2021, reflecting a 32 percent increase from 2020. While Zacc has the power to arrest, it does not have the power to prosecute,” the report notes.