Division rocks anti-graft body

HARARE - Cracks have emerged in the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc), with the body’s investigators coming under severe pressure to drop corruption investigations into three ministries accused of underhand dealings.

Zacc chairperson, Denford Chirinda, claimed on Sunday that Zacc had made “mistakes” in its attempts to probe offices of 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.

But earlier last week, Zacc spokesperson, Goodwill Shana insisted at a press conference that they followed procedures in trying to acquire search warrants for the three ministries.

While Zacc said it had reasonable grounds to suspect that there was abuse of duty at the ministries, the High Court 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 Road Administration (Zinara).

Zacc suspects the three ministries through their different departments, were involved in underhand dealings, with the ministry of Youth and Empowerment in the limelight over alleged corruption in indigenisation transactions, involving particularly the $971 million Zimplats deal.

Chirindo — who has been under withering pressure over the last week amid reports he was facing imminent arrest — yesterday repudiated official statements made at a news conference last Wednesday by his own commission’s Shana that the commission had done nothing wrong in investigating the three ministries.

Shana said they had exhausted all prescribed procedures and avenues for obtaining search warrants including approaching the police and magistrates’ courts.

In a dramatic volte face, the Zacc chairman told the State-run media at the weekend that defective search warrants were obtained from High Court Judge Charles Hungwe — who has also come under severe attack from the State media.

“The commission made mistakes and we must correct those mistakes,” he told the State paper.

Chirindo yesterday denied in an interview with this paper that he was under pressure to admit to mistakes on the issue of search warrants for the three ministers, or that his retraction statement was meant to avert his imminent arrest.

“I am not aware of that, I am not aware of me facing arrest,” he told the Daily News. “If I have to face arrest, let me face it, the law is for everyone. If you break it, you face the music.”

Asked if investigations into the three ministers were forging ahead as earlier claimed by Shana, Chrindo retorted: “I am not the investigator; ask the investigators whether they are going ahead. The Zacc is not a law unto itself.”

Pressed to clarify why the Zacc made “mistakes” under his watch as chairman, Chirindo said: “All I am saying is we must do investigations in accordance with the laws.”

He spoke amid reports that Zacc commissioner Emmanuel Chimwanda  — a former police assistant commissioner — was also facing arrest.

Zacc chief executive Ngonidzashe Gumbo has been recalled from his job by Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi and has subsequently appeared in court charged with an alleged 2010 fraud involving $435 000 which the State claims it was prejudiced when the anti-graft body bought a Harare property to house Zacc.

According to State papers, it is claimed Gumbo received $1,68 million from government to buy the Mt Pleasant house for Zacc, but the State claims he paid only $1,2 million for it and pocketed the difference of $435 000. Gumbo denies the charge, and questions the timing of the prosecution.

Chirindo denied the Zacc CEO — who is in custody pending his bail hearing today — had been fired.

“He did not have a contract with Zacc but with the government,” Chirindo said. “Ask those who employed and recalled him. I can’t answer that. Let the law follow its course. If he is not criminally liable, he will be cleared by the courts.”

Zacc general manager for investigations, Sukai Tongogara, has also been taken in by police and put through a few rounds of interrogation, while there have also been attempts to insinuate that she was not the daughter of Josiah Tongogara, the commander of Mugabe’s 1970s guerrilla army.

One of Tongogara’s surviving wives Angeline claims Sukai is daughter of the deceased general’s brother.

The fear of being arrested and punished, particularly given the lack of due process that may be involved, has struck fear into Zacc officers, and also made their job a dangerous one.

The fallout in the Zacc probe also extended to the High Court, where registrar Elijah Makomo — who stamped the authorisation of the search warrants — was transferred from the High Court to the Harare Magistrates’ Court last week.

Justice Hungwe, who granted the search warrants to Zacc on March 11, has also come under increasing pressure, amid attempts to cast aspersions on his integrity.

His previous judgments have been dusted up and pilloried in the State media.

The investigations into the three ministries have aggravated tension and strained relations between the Zacc and the police.

Critics accuse Zimbabwean authorities of trying to protect the ministries accused of embezzlement.

“Closing the case into the ministers is proof that the Zimbabwean State has officially taken a position in defence of corrupt top government officials,” said one Zacc commissioner who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Zanu PF says the investigations are politically-motivated and intended to discredit the indigenisation programme and discredit the ministry of Mines and the Ministry of Transport (both run by Zanu PF minister) ahead of elections.

The intended investigation into the three ministries has drawn particular attention on social media inside and outside Zimbabwe due to speculation about whether it might be tied to a much broader factional struggle in Zanu PF. - Gift Phiri, Political Editor

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