Anti-graft body fights on

HARARE - Zimbabwe's Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) has vowed to fight on despite what the organisation yesterday described as politically-motivated crackdown on the constitutional body.

Zacc spokesperson Goodwill Shana told a press conference yesterday that the commission was undeterred by the escalating onslaught.

The blitz was precipitated by an attempt by Zacc to search and seize documents from the offices of three Government ministers — Mines and Mining Development minister Obert Mpofu, Youth Development, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment minister Savior Kasukuwere and Transport, Communications and Infrastructure Development minister Nicholas Goche.

The High Court — which had initially okayed the searches — stonewalled the anti-graft body from conducting searches at the offices of the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board (Nieeb), the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) and the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara).
Zacc claims has reasonable grounds to suspect that there was abuse of duty by public officers in the three bodies.

Nieeb has been in the limelight over alleged corruption in indigenisation transactions, involving particularly the $971 million Zimplats deal which observers said could have seen the country swindled of millions of dollars.

Shana defiantly spoke of forging ahead with investigations despite Zacc chief executive officer Ngonidzashe Gumbo being “recalled” by Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi last Friday, and as general manager for investigations, Sukai Tongogara went into hiding.

High Court registrar Elijah Makomo — who stamped the authorisation of the search warrants — was also transferred from the High Court to the Harare Magistrates’ Courts this week.

“She (Tongogara) has told us that she has information that police from the Law and Order section are looking for her for an undisclosed indiscretion and she requested that she be sent to a place of safety,” Shana told the news conference yesterday.

“We are still in contact with her but we will be interested in knowing why the police are looking for her. The parent ministry (of Home Affairs) has also recalled our chief executive officer Ngonidzashe Gumbo. As to the timing of the recall or the reasons for that, we are not in a position to comment neither are we aware.”

In the wake of Justice George Chiweshe’s March 14 ruling barring Zacc from executing the search warrant issued by Justice Charles Hungwe on March 11 after investigators were reportedly denied entry to conduct searches at the three offices, there has been a State media onslaught against Zacc claiming that defective search warrants were obtained from the High Court Judge ostensibly to pursue underhand and malicious investigations against certain organisations, their officials, respective ministries and ministers.

Shana rubbished those claims yesterday.

“Zacc would like to put it on record that it had exhausted all prescribed procedures and avenues for obtaining search warrants including approaching the police and magistrates’ courts,” he said.

“We never trumpeted that we are going to investigate so and so or we will be searching this or that institution or persons. If the persons under investigation had not reacted the way they did, in this case the public or the media would never have known.

“We do not investigate guilty people and when we obtain a search warrant, it does not mean someone is guilty. The evidence gathered from such a search will reveal whether they are innocent or guilty.”

Shana clarified that after failing to obtain search warrants from the police and a provincial magistrate, Zacc approached the attorney general’s office who advised them to seek recourse with the chief magistrate before a last ditch effort at the High Court.

“The AGs office advised us that the chief magistrate could overrule the provincial magistrate’s ruling because it was an administrative matter,” Shana said.

“On the 5th of March we approached the chief magistrate for assistance. After the presentation of our case, the chief magistrate refused to overrule the provincial magistrate’s decision, indicating that such an action would be interference with the provincial magistrates’ judicial independence.”

The Zacc spokesperson said they had never consented to an out of court settlement with those opposing their search warrants.

“Where did we consent with that and with who?” queried Shana.

“We only came back to regroup and look at our options and we have them. As far as we are concerned, it is not the intention of the law to hamstring the commission.

“For example, if we were to investigate the police or the courts and these institutions refuse to provide us with warrants, would that mean we have nowhere to go? Certainly not! In our opinion, we think there is a lacuna in the law and we are looking at that.”

The body, whose officers are also coming under attack, said it sought the protection of president Robert Mugabe and said those who “question the appointment of commissioners is to question the judgment of the president with regard to the integrity and suitability of the commissioners.”

Commissioners in the corruption buster were sworn in by Mugabe in September 2011.

Shana said there was nothing untoward about getting quasi-fiscal support from Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono.

“I am aware that judges, ministries and the police received financial support from Gono and to insinuate that the Zacc is corrupt based on this, one would need to label all government institutions who benefited as corrupt,” said Shana.

“It is a desperate attempt to cast aspersions on the integrity of the commission and those people must look for something current.”

Shana said the State media indicated that the current commission corruptly received and has continued to enjoy gifts and other benefits from Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono.

“To support this assertion a memorandum of agreement entered between the RBZ and staff (not commissioners but staff) of Zacc. This Mou was in regard to a quasi fiscal arrangement between the RBZ and the staff of the commission.

“It must also be borne in mind that the RBZ was at the time providing quasi-fiscal support for most if not all government and state institutions. It is common cause that such quasi fiscal support has since ceased to exist and no such programme is in place in relation to the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission or to any other institution that we know of.

“To single out the commission as being corrupt for receiving support that was availed to many other institutions would be unfair and a distortion of the reality at the time. The debate would have been more plausible if the question had been about how the quasi fiscal support was then used within the commission.”

Shana pointed out that the current commission was only sworn into office on September 1, 2011 whilst the alleged transaction took place in October 2008 adding this could not have been corruptly enriched the current commissioners.

He said: “The current commission and commissioners have not received and do not receive personal or organisational assistance of any form, shape or fashion from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe or indeed, from any other beneficiary (sic) except Treasury and ministry approved bilateral arrangements. - Richard Chidza and Gift Phiri

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