Hands off graft body: Mugabe

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe has demanded an end to harassment of Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) members, a move meant to shield them from hawks sharpening swords against the graft busters.

Mugabe took the decision after meeting with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai last week, according to sources.

But that has not done much to ease the nerves of Zacc commissioners, who, during the same week, told co-Home Affairs minister Theresa Makone that they feared for their lives.

In a frank meeting with Makone, the commissioners told her that even their families’ lives were in danger from big guns targeted for investigation by the commission.

Makone confirmed the development.

“The Principals of Government at their Monday afternoon meeting, reiterated their support of the commission and exhorted it to carry out its duties without fear or favour, but following the established guidelines,” she said after meeting the commissioners.

Zacc commissioners told Makone that they were living in fear as police and other Zanu PF officials launched a massive onslaught on them.

Denford Chirindo, the commission’s chairperson, confirmed to the Daily News on Sunday that a meeting was held between commissioners and Makone but said he could not divulge any details of their meeting, referring this paper to the minister.

In the last month, Zacc officials and a commissioner were arrested by police while a media onslaught was launched against them after an attempt to search offices of Savior Kasukuwere, the Youth Development, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment minister as well as those of powerful Mines and Mining Development minister Obert Mpofu.

Gun-toting police officers blocked Zacc investigators who were armed with a High Court search warrant.

Issues have escalated since then, the commissioners told Makone.

Makone said some of those being investigated by Zacc are too powerful and have a sense of being untouchable.

“They (Zacc officials) were telling me that they now fear for their lives and those of their families. The hate speech that has come out of certain sections of the press confirms the sense of impunity and entitlement that some have accorded themselves.

“Where they will make procedural errors, they should be corrected and not treated as dangerous criminals,” said Makone.

After the meeting, Makone said she was concerned about the welfare of the commissioners who have a task of eradicating corruption, a disease that has contributed to the country’s poor economic performance.

Makone said government has been neglecting the commissioners.

“As a matter of fact, they are entitled to SUV vehicles, accommodation, personal security, and offices countrywide. They were also not given a list of offices that are exempted from scrutiny. Therefore, as they do their work of ridding our country of all forms of corruption, they should be encouraged, not impeded or hounded,” Makone said.

The commission was set up in 2009 as part of the power-sharing agreement between Zanu PF and the two MDC formations.

But problems have dogged the commission since commissioners and investigators began taking up high profile cases.

Its chief investigations officer Sukai Tongogara went into hiding before surrendering herself to the police.

This was at a time when police were holding the commission’s chief executive Ngonidzashe Gumbo on allegations of corruption. Gumbo has since left the commission and is currently in custody on corruption charges.

A commissioner Emmanuel Chimwanda, a former top police commander, has also been arrested and is being charged with impersonating police.

Makone said such actions only served to protect corrupt officials who use their power to target Zacc officials. She said Zacc should be allowed to do its job without hindrance.

“The commissioners were appointed by His Excellency, the President, to serve the people by stamping out corruption which has become a scourge and an enemy of development.

They were also not given a list of offices that are exempted from scrutiny.

“Therefore, as they do their work of ridding our country of all forms of corruption, they should be encouraged, not impeded or hounded,” said Makone.

She added: “The public has the right to know if the wealth we tout in front of them is honestly earned, especially when it does not match our earning capacity. The public has the right to question every move that public servants make on their behalf,” she said. - Xolisani Ncube and Bridget Mananavire

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