Ministers off the hook

HARARE - The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc)’s bid to search two key government ministries over possible graft has flopped after the crime busters consented to a High Court interdict barring the raids.

With Youth Development,  Indigenisation and Empowerment  minister Savior Kasukuwere and his Mining counterpart Obert Mpofu reportedly under the spotlight, Tinei Dodo, representing Zacc yesterday agreed to the two ministries’ application, grinding the intended busts to a halt.

As stakes get high in the National Indigenisation and Empowerment Board (Nieeb) saga which was first exposed by the Daily News in February, there seems no end in sight to the sensational case.

The issue has gone viral since the Daily News broke the Nieebgate Scandal 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.

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

However, Nieeb, which falls under the ministry of Indigenisation and Empowerment and Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation(ZMDC), which falls under the Mines and Mining Development ministry on Wednesday filed a High Court urgent chamber application seeking to bar Zacc from ransacking government offices in search of potentially damaging evidence.

Judge President George Chiweshe’s ruling by consent means its back to the drawing board for Zacc, while the two ministries get the much needed breathing space.

Nieeb and ZMDC were represented by Gerald Mlotshwa.

“My learned friend Dodo has indicated that first respondent (Zacc) is not opposed to the interim relief sought,” said Mlotshwa.

In the application, ZMDC said Zacc had bungled in the process of obtaining the search warrants, thus temporarily freeing the Zanu PF ministers.

In his affidavit, Cleopas Makonese, ZMDC’s acting general manager said Zacc had no power to get a search warrant from the High Court.

“Section 50(1) of the Criminal Procedure & Evidence, from which the search warrant purports to have been issued does not empower, with the greatest of respect, a Judge of the High Court of Zimbabwe to grant search warrants in the manner and circumstances to which this search warrant relates.

“I am verily advised that Section 50(1) grants the power to a judge to issue out a search warrant only in those circumstances where search warrant relates to proceedings over which the judge concerned is presiding, in other words during the course of criminal proceedings pending before such Judge,” reads part of Makonese’s affidavit.

ZMDC further said their chamber application was urgent because its operations were important to the economy of the country.

“The execution of the illegal search warrant will certainly disrupt its operations and irreparably prejudice the national fiscus to which the applicant is a critical and major contributory,” ZMDC claimed.

According to the search warrant, 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, the government and communities.

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

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

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. - Tendai Kamhungira

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