A COMMISSIONER in the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc), Jessie Majome (pictured), has conceded the institution’s failure to nail down culprits that are abusing public funds and resources, but has shifted blame to the legislature, saying it is failing to cement the existing legal framework for effective prosecution.
Zacc has been under fire for failing to effectively deal with culprits accused of abusing public resources.
In 2020, Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation (ZMF) president Henrietta Rushwaya was arrested at Robert Mugabe International Airport in Harare for allegedly attempting to smuggle six kilogrammes of gold worth more than US$400 000 to Dubai.
Rushwaya has since been cleared of any wrongdoing in the case in which she was accused of offering a US$5 000 bribe to an airport official to pass through the checkpoint with the gold.
More cases are yet to be finalised, further putting Zacc’s integrity under scrutiny.
Speaking at an Integrity Icon 2022 summit by the Accountability Lab Zimbabwe this week, Majome said the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act has been made it easy for culprits to defend themselves, rendering it difficult to nail them.
“The tool that is there is not very sharp in terms of the Criminal Code. We do not have sufficient legal instruments in the laws. They are insufficient, and we need to develop them.
“The one that we have right now is not very sharp. So, that tool that is there that is not very sharp has actually been blunted further. The offensive criminal abuse of duty is the one. If you look at our criminal offences at Zacc, for the crimes that have been prosecuted, we use section 174, criminal abuse of duty, not of office.
“So what it currently provides now is that if a person who is public officer, which is also defined very narrowly — if a person does anything contrary to their duty, or omits doing something contrary to their duties, they will face a criminal offence,” she said.
Majome said this has seen the institution fail to nail down culprits who are not clearly defined in the current Act.
“We have seen people getting off the hook, people from parastatals and also private companies. For example, if a person in the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (Zetdc) today abuses public funds, then the courts are ruling that they are not public officers. What we would like to see Parliament doing is strengthening that Criminal Law Codification Act.
“We want them to widen the definition of public officers to include those people that are in companies. We want to see new offences, offences of corruption . . . around ethics.
“We do not have many offences around corruption. We would like to see those. We have our draft bill that we would like to replace the Anti-Corruption Commission Act. We need to all participate in working towards getting sharper tools and to stop the blunting of the inadequate tools,” she said.
Majome also said that Parliament has been sitting on amendments to the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act which she said are likely to hinder prosecution
.“What the proposal (Amendment) is seeking to do is blunt it further. It is actually seeking to make a defence to something that is already defendable. It is seeking to provide, and add a qualifier that for one to be found guilty of abusing duty by omitting or doing something, he or she must know that it is their duty to do something, or that it is their duty not to do something.
“A defence has been introduced by the legislature right now as we speak. So, I was shocked when I discovered that the tool, already blunt, has been blunted further. So, I do not know if there has been activism voices around this to say: We need sharp and more tools. We cannot blunt the weak ones, and the legislature that we already have.
“I am hoping to see organisations writing submissions to Parliament regarding this Bill because what I think should instead happen is that there should be a definition of what a public officer is. It is very narrow,” she said.
While the commission has been lacking prosecutorial powers, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) admitted that state prosecutors are susceptible to bribery because of poor working conditions and low pay during the launch of the Transparency International 2022 Corruption Perception Index report, further casting doubt over effective prosecution.