Cletus Mushanawani and Nyore Madzianike
Government is undertaking measures to ring-fence officers employed by special anti-corruption courts through paying them competitive salaries and allowances.
The Government believes that a well-remunerated Judiciary will be difficult to compromise.
Zimbabwe has declared war against corruption, which is seen as a major drag to economic growth, and Government is working round the clock to craft measures to stamp out the vice.
This comes as a top Ugandan anti-corruption judge has been invited to impart skills to stakeholders in the justice delivery system as the fight against graft escalates.
Prosecutor-General Mr Kumbirai Hodzi yesterday told participants at the anti-corruption training in Harare for the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) and police that officers employed by the special anti-corruption courts will be provided with basic needs like accommodation and transport.
He said this would stop the officers from being compromised by cartels of criminals.
“The National Prosecution Authority has taken advantage of the immense political will in the country to fight corruption and had a meeting with President Mnangagwa together with Treasury. We agreed to take extraordinary measures to ring-fence all officers involved in anti-corruption work.
“From now onwards, officers will be provided with adequate accommodation, transport and allowances to ensure that they are not compromised by criminal cartels,” he said.
Mr Hodzi said the authority had also created a liaison desk with all stakeholders in the anti-corruption unit to interrogate all reported cases so that only strong cases with potential for conviction go to court.
His comments followed Chief Justice Luke Malaba’s observation that despite having clear policies in the fight against corruption, Zimbabwe still had challenges in effectively dealing with the scourge.
“Where are we going wrong in the fight against corruption? We are going wrong, not only on policies. What is lacking is the cadre, the fighter who is letting us down every day.
“The reason why we are failing is that some of us are faint-hearted. Fighting corruption is not for the faint-hearted. It requires courage, seriousness and dedication to duty.”
The Chief Justice said the training being undertaken would help sharpen the skills of officers as criminals continued to invent new methods of committing crimes.
“The training that you are going to have for the rest of the week is very, very important as it will help in sharpening your skills in dealing with corruption.
“Criminals continue to invent new methods of avoiding detection. They continue to perfect the skills of avoiding convictions and making a mockery of the administration of justice.
“Let us reflect deeply into these institutions. What happens when these corrupt individuals succeed in perfecting skills of undermining the administration of justice? What happens is that State institutions get paralysed by corrupt cartels and fail to deliver services to the people,” said Chief Justice Malaba.
He said it had become important for the nation to modernise the ways corruption was fought, especially when dealing with sophisticated crimes such as money laundering and cybercrime.
“These are crimes of high levels of sophistication. They are crimes of intelligence. We must be able to match that level of intelligence.
“We cannot afford to be mediocre thinkers. We cannot, in this world, afford to fight a modern criminal with mediocre mentality. We need to improve mechanisms of recovering proceeds of crime,” said Chief Justice Malaba.
ZACC chairperson Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo called for an end to the “catch and release syndrome’’ characterising most corruption cases.
Harare is plucking a leaf from Uganda in the fight against corruption and invited top-notch Ugandan Anti-Corruption Court judge, Justice Lawrence Gidudu to train officers from the JSC, NPA, ZACC and ZRP.
As part of its anti-corruption drive, Uganda established the Anti-Corruption Division of the High Court in July 2018.
Its mandate is to provide for an orderly mechanism for the adjudication of corruption cases based on merit, speed, efficiency and fairness.
The Ugandan Anti-Corruption Division has a 90 percent conviction rate.
With just two judges in 2018, the Ugandan unit collected about 20 billion shillings (about US$5,5 million) in the form of non-tax revenue.
It has further generated money for the country through fines and asset recovery orders.
Mr Rwodzi said taking a leaf from the Ugandan experience, the NPA was committed to achieving a constitutional mandate as well as Government’s vision of zero tolerance to corruption.
“The example of Uganda shows us that these specialised courts are an effective way of ensuring the timeous and just conclusion of corruption matters which are often complex and technical,” said Mr Hodzi.
He said the criminal justice system alone was not sufficient to efficiently and effectively deal with corruption.
“It is often difficult to bring some of the leaders of organised crime to book as they always ensure that they are far removed from the overt criminal activity concerned. An apt example relates to the poaching of wildlife by criminal gangs,” he said.
It was felt that conventional criminal penalties were inadequate to prevent and deter crime and corruption as they allowed convicted persons to retain a considerable portion of ill-gotten assets.
This allowed criminals and their associates to continue enjoying proceeds of crime after being sentenced.
Chief Justice Malaba expressed concern over the postponement of court cases on “very flimsy grounds” saying cases should be speedily concluded as part of institutional reforms.