ED's Anti-Corruption Unit challenged

HARARE - Prosecuting duties of the Special Anti-Corruption Unit set by President Emmerson Mnangagwa have been challenged in court, this together with its independence and constitutionality.

The challenge was made during the commencement of suspended University of Zimbabwe Vice Chancellor Levi Nyagura’s trial who is being accused of fraudulently awarding former first lady Grace Mugabe a PhD.

Nyagura’s legal representative Lewis Uriri yesterday made an application before the court arguing that the duties of the prosecutors in the special unit and their terms of reference were inconsistent with the provisions of the law on the conduct of prosecutors and their independence.

“Once there is a breach of provisions of the Constitution there is a breach of the law,” Uriri said.

He noted that instead of being independent and not taking direction from anyone, the special unit officials take direction from the President, and were bound by the Official Secrecy Act, and were not employed by the National Prosecuting Authority as should be in the case of prosecutors.

He also argued that the special unit was not set-up under any statutory provisions which showed a “deliberate and wilful breach of the Constitution” and thus compromising Nyagura’s right to a free trial.

“The people who assist the Prosecutor General are employed by a board of the National Prosecuting Authority. My learned friends (anti-corruption special unit members) haven’t been employed by the NPA board, they are employed by the OPC.

“Its terms of reference they have been placed under the President, their salaries are paid by the President, and they are bound by the Official Secrecy Act. They have both investigative and prosecuting rights. They serve at the pleasure of the President who can remove them from office at any time,” said Uriri.

“...The primary obligation to prosecute in the public interest rests with the NPA and if there is going to be conferment of prosecuting powers other than the NPA it should be done by an Act of Parliament.”

Prosecutor Tapiwa Godzi, however, said they have the proper rights to appear in court and conduct their duties just as any prosecutor after being given authority by the PG.

“This application should be dismissed as it is devoid of merit,” Godzi said.

The court adjourned to today in the afternoon when Harare magistrate Lazini Ncube will make a ruling.

Nyagura is being charged with criminal abuse of office.

The Higher Education ministry which is cited as the complainant in the case has distanced itself saying they do not meddle in academic issues.

This has been detailed in a letter that forms part of Nyagura’s court records.

According to State papers, the Higher Education ministry’s permanent secretary made a complaint against Nyagura but the office denied making such a report.

According to State papers,  sometime in 2011 Nyagura single-handedly accepted and approved Mugabe’s
application to study for a PhD in Sociology without the knowledge of the department Board and Faculty of Higher Degrees Committee.

The court heard that Nyagura then appointed professors Mararike and Chaneta to supervise Mugabe’s thesis without the board’s approval.

It was alleged that Nyagura further usurped powers and appointed examiners to in violation of the University of Zimbabwe Act Chapter 25:16 and Ordinances 1998/99 volume 11 which gives that prerogative to the Senate committee.

Sometime in 2014, Nyagura allegedly led supervisors and examiners to Mugabe’s Mazowe Estate where the defence oral examination was purportedly done without knowledge and approval of the academic committee.

According to State papers,  the oral examination is supposed to be done at the UZ premises.

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