From George Maponga in Masvingo—
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday said Government would escalate the fight against corruption as he warned criminals who threatened the country’s potential as an investment destination.VP Mnangagwa, who is also responsible for the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, said Government would not allow the country to be a safe haven for criminals whom he said would be flushed out.
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In his keynote address at the official opening of the new Masvingo High Court, VP Mnangagwa singled out corruption as the biggest threat to Zimbabwe’s drive to achieve its full potential as a prime investment destination.
Masvingo yesterday became the third city to have a permanent High Court seat in Zimbabwe after Harare and Bulawayo. The second High Court was opened 122 years ago in 1894 by white colonial settlers in Bulawayo. Vice President Mnangagwa said Government would never tolerate corruption which he said was “corrosive’’ and “negative’’ among other effects on society.
“We have come here today with the affirmation that the law is not the panacea of all social ills, but that it is nonetheless the line that none amongst our communities must dare cross — this being our final statement as the State on the meaning of what is wrong or right,’’ he said.
“While, therefore, we continue in our endeavour to create jobs, uplift the quality of life of our people and promote the moral regeneration of our communities, we will escalate our determination to attain zero tolerance against crime particularly corruption, which has a corrosive,negative and retrogressive impact on our society as it undermines trust in Government, erodes citizens’ ethical standards and gnaws away at society’s moral fabric and the potential of our nation as a preferred investment destination,’’ he added.
He paid tribute to the country’s judiciary for the strides made in the area of criminal justice.
“We hereby send the sternest warning to criminals that they have no place to hide in our republic. In keeping with the intention of Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No.20) Act 2013, our primary goal is to foster accountability and good governance at every level and in all spheres of our national endeavour, including raising Zimbabwe’s corruption perception indices to acceptable levels.’’
The VP said Government was working on a raft of amendments to existing legislative instruments to ensure speedy resolution of disputes by the courts under the “Ease of Doing Business’’ project.
He revealed that top on the list of the amendments is the creation of specialised commercial courts, from the Magistrates Court to the High Court.
The Ministry of Justice, added VP Mnangagwa, was in the process of reviewing fees and charges levied on people to access the courts.
“The decentralisation of the High Court to Masvingo is therefore a welcome development particularly for the business community as it would no longer need to travel to Harare or Bulawayo for the resolution of commercial disputes as these will be dealt with right here once the amendments are passed into law,’’ he said.
VP Mnangagwa added that the Ministry of Justice and the Judicial Service Commission had increased the number of Small Claims Courts from two to 10, a development that was expected to benefit litigants with small amounts.
He said the opening of the High Court in Masvingo was part of a deliberate thrust by his ministry through the Judicial Service Commission to bring justice closer to the people. He decried the high murder and domestic violence cases in the country.
VP Mnangagwa challenged the Masvingo political leadership led by Provincial Affairs Minister Senator Shuvai Mahofa and traditional leaders to lead in the drive to end a culture violence to stop murders.
In his address at the same event, Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku said the Judicial Service Commission wanted to decentralise the High Court to bring justice closer to the people. He paid tribute to the Judicial Service Commission for using meagre resources at its disposal to open the High Court.
“Let’s get away from this habit of always complaining that we cannot do this and that because there are no resources. Let us use the little resources that are at our disposal to do something because at the end, we will discover that we would have solved some of our problems,’’ he said.
“The JSC took 105 days to rehabilitate and furnish the new High Court in Masvingo using very little resources and this new High Court is the first to be opened in this country after the last one was opened in 1894 — that is 122 years ago,’’ he added.
Chief Justice Chidyausiku said the JSC wanted to open the High Court in cities such as Mutare and Gweru, but decided to first settle for Masvingo because of the availability of an unused building that was upgraded to the superior court.
Prosecutor General Mr Johannes Tomana said the fight against crime in Zimbabwe required a united front adding that the National Prosecuting Authority was going to beef up its staff in Masvingo to reflect the coming in of a permanent High Court station.
Prisons and Correctional Services Deputy Commissioner General Agrey Huggins Machingauta said the opening of the High Court in Masvingo would decongest Chikurubi and Khami Maximum Security prisons as some of the serious crimes would be heard at the new High Court.
Senator Mahofa said it was an honour for Masvingo to have the first High Court in post-indepedent Zimbabwe saying this would lead to a gradual decline in crime.
The Masvingo High Court opening was witnessed by Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Justice Mrs Virginia Mabhiza, Deputy Police Commissioner General Josephine Shambare, Zimbabwe Chiefs’ Council president Chief Fortune Charumbira among others.