Zim intensifies anti-fraud fight

HARARE - Zimbabwe is intensifying its fight against white collar crimes as part of strategies to improve the ease of doing business and lure foreign investors.

President Robert Mugabe last week said the country would soon merge the small claims court, commercial court and High Court in a move aimed at fighting fraud and other corporate crimes.

Mugabe said the move was one of several business-aligned developments that were going to be put before the current parliamentary session in light of numerous fraud and corruption cases, adding there were also plans to amend the country’s controversial Indigenisation Act.

“…in that vein, the small claims court, the commercial court and the High Court are going to be merged into the Judicial Laws Amendment (Ease of Settling Commercial and other Disputes) Bill 2016,” Mugabe said during the opening of the fourth session of the eighth Parliament.

At the moment, Zimbabwe is in the process of mobilising resources to set up a commercial court that will operate from the High Court.

Three courts will be set up around the country and as the office aims at dealing with white collar crimes locally, with the Harare building already secured.

This comes as there has been a broad consensus among Zimbabwe’s business community that there is need for such a court, specifically handling commercial cases in an efficient and business-like manner.

There is a perception that commercial litigation in the country is frustratingly slow while the costs are far too burdensome.

Analysts contend that establishment of the commercial court will go a long way in delivering justice to the general public that usually loses a lot when financial institutions go bankrupt.

Over the past few years, several bankers who abused depositors’ funds have neither been charged nor prosecuted for their crimes.

While most depositors who used to bank with the now-defunct institutions have called for the prosecution of the bank’s respective management and boards, the bank owners are at the moment untouchable.

Mugabe also said some of the items the current parliamentary session were going to look into included the Movable Property Security Interest Bill, the Insolvency Bill, amendments to the Insurance Act, the Pensions and Provident Funds Act and the Insurance and Pensions Commission Act as well as amendments to the Microfinance Act.

To facilitate for the ease of doing business, 13 pieces of legislation are being examined and are at various stages of development with assistance from the World Bank (WB).

The first one is the Deeds and Registry Act which has been finalised and submitted to the cabinet committee on legislation, the Commercial Court Bill, which was approved by the committee, the High Court Act Bill, which was also finalised along with the State Administration Act has also been taken to Cabinet.

Other pieces of legislation being examined are the Immovable Properties Act, with the department aiming and broadening the country’s system of determining collateral to include various assets like cattle which at the moment are not recognised as security when borrowing from local financial institutions.

The Office of the President is working with the WB and the United Kingdom DFID to come up with a rapid implementation of a raft of investment reforms, under the Rapid Results Approach (RRA), which aims at making it easier for investors to set up operations locally.

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