All eyes on High Court

HARARE - As the Nieebgate Scandal takes new twists and turns, Saviour Kasukuwere’s ministry of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment which is under investigation for possible underhand dealings, is  today pinning its hopes on the High Court for protection from corruption busters.

Kasukuwere’s ministry has attracted the interest of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc), which is fighting to search the ministry’s offices and seize documents.

But the ministry is fighting tooth and nail to shield itself from scrutiny by the anti-corruption commission and has through the National Indigenisation and Empowerment Board (Nieeb),  asked the High Court to stop the planned search and seizures.

As stakes get high in the saga which was first exposed by the Daily News, there seems no end in sight to the sensational case which has exposed the corruption in the empowerment programme championed by Mugabe’s Zanu PF.

The ministry of Mines which is also under investigation and has also approached the High Court seeking to stop Zacc from searching their offices.

The Nieebgate scandal has gone viral since the Daily News broke the stinking scam on February 14, exposing apparent flaws in the nearly $1 billion Zimbabwe Platinum Mines Limited (Zimplats) deal — touted as the biggest empowerment deal since independence in 1980 but now turning out to be the biggest commercial scandal.

The scandal also extends to six other top earning companies which were indigenised.

Zacc has obtained a warrant from the High Court to search and seize documents from the two ministries.

The probe team want a register of all mining companies that have complied with the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act, copies of all agreements entered into between mining companies and the government and communities.

The anti-corruption watchdog also wants contract documents concerning the engagement of Top Harvest, a private equity investment firm that stitched the first Zimplats indigenisation deal before Brainworks Capital (Private) Limited was engaged.

According to information reaching the Daily News, Zacc had reasonable grounds to suspect that there was abuse of duty by public officers who handled the indigenisation transaction in contravention of Section 174 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

Nieeb, which falls under the ministry of Indigenisation and Empowerment and Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation that falls under the Mines and Mining Development ministry yesterday filed a High Court urgent chamber application seeking to bar Zacc from ransacking government offices in search of documents they want to use in their investigations.

The potentially damning probe could not have occurred at a worse moment—just before elections due in the next few months—and could leave the ex-majority party in a mess.

Several top Zanu PF officials in Manicaland province have already been taken to task by the party’s politburo and police over corruption charges.

Zanu PF national chairman Simon Khaya Moyo has publicly admitted that corruption is a cancer afflicting the liberation movement.

Mugabe also admitted that Kasukuwere got it wrong in implementing the indigenisation programme in relation to the obtaining of shares in platinum mining giant Zimplats.

The Nieebgate saga has put a dent if not a hole on the seemingly attractive empowerment scheme, under which foreign companies are forced to cede 51 percent of their shares to government approved bodies and communities.

But Mpofu and Kasukuwere’s ministries are fighting and say Zacc’s search warrant is illegal.

 “First Respondent (Zacc) has no power in terms of its own enabling legislation, the Anti-Corruption Commission Act, to obtain a search warrant from a judge of the High Court of Zimbabwe.

“A judge of the High Court, with the greatest respect, has no power, in any event to authorise any such search warrant in terms of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, because the subject matter of the warrant is not for the purposes of a trial pending before such judge,” reads part of Nieeb’s application to be heard by High Court judge president George Chiweshe.

Apart from resorting to the legal channels to block Zacc from getting to the bottom of the shoddy empowerment deals, Nieeb officials reportedly used guns to stop the anti-graft body from entering its offices. - Fungi Kwaramba and Tendai Kamhungira

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