Fidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter
President Mnangagwa has expressed disquiet over the slow movement in the battle against corruption following the arrest of several high-profile figures in a sprawling graft probe in the country.
Several former Government ministers were arrested for corruption in cases that cast light on graft in the highest echelons of former President Mr Robert Mugabe’s administration.
Businesspeople and executives were also snared in the graft probe resulting in them being brought to court for trial, but some of their cases died at the High Court for various reasons.
Yesterday, President Mnangagwa applauded the establishment of specialised anti-corruption courts, but expressed displeasure in the way corruption cases were going.
“I am disappointed that corruption cases are not moving. While we may be experiencing teething challenges, I implore all those who play a role in this mammoth task to remain steadfast, honest and upright in the execution of their duties,” he said.
“The success in this regard is imperative as it impacts on our quest to establish a corrupt free society, accelerate development and speedily improve the quality of life of our people.”
He made the remarks while addressing judges, lawyers, magistrates, ministers among guests at the commissioning of the new Labour Court in Harare, next to Rotten Row Courts.
Eradicating corruption is part of the transitional stabilisation programme, which has put in place a cocktail of measures to nip the scourge in the bud.
President Mnangagwa’s remarks on the progress to deal with corruption come a time when at least 14 high-profile corruption trials have been stalled for various reasons by the High Court since last year.
This has ignited public debate on the seriousness by some stakeholders in the criminal justice system in confronting the evil that has reached epidemic proportions in all the sectors of the economy.
Proceedings in most of the cases of graft have been stayed pending review applications filed by defence lawyers while in some cases the accused persons were discharged by the High Court.
The 14 cases at the centre of the debate were presided over by eight different judges of the High Court.
The cases include cases in which former Cabinet minister Ignatius Chombo, former Makoni legislator Kudzanayi Chipanga, and two others are being accused of criminal abuse of office dragged for over a year.
Their trials were supposed to begin in February 2018, but dragged after the High Court stayed proceedings on July 19, the same year.
The court then dismissed the review applications in February this year, almost a year later.
Former Chitungwiza chamber secretary Priscillar Vengesai, who is facing bribery charges, had a trial date set for July 25 last year, but a High Court judge granted temporary stay of proceedings on November 31.
It is understood that heads of argument in the review proceedings are yet to be filed, six months after the granting of the High Court order.
Also a judge of the High Court granted an order for temporary stay of the corruption trial of former Mines and Mining Development Minister Walter Chidhakwa and permanent secretary Francis Gudyanga on July 24 last year, but the review application was only filed in January this year.
The record is not yet ready for allocation with some papers still to be filed.
Proceedings in a case in which former minister Saviour Kasukuwere is being charged with criminal abuse of office were stayed last year, but it is yet to be allocated to a judge for review.
In another case, former University of Zimbabwe Vice Chancellor Professor Levi Nyagura, charged with criminal abuse of office, unsuccessfully excepted to the charge, but filed a review application on April 30 this year, which is yet to be determined.
Former minister Supa Mandiwanzira, who was arrested last year for criminal abuse of office, under case number R990/18, was acquitted by the High Court on one count and had proceedings related to the second count stayed.
The case of Chief Magistrate Mishrod Guvamombe was stayed on April 30 this year, pending review of the decision to have him tried by his junior. He will now appear at the High Court for trial.
Another case in which former Midlands Governor Jason Machaya is being charged with criminal abuse of office was also stopped on April 2, pending review of the magistrate’s decision.
Businessman Genius Kadungure, who stands accused of fraud, lost his bail application at the magistrates’ court, but was freed by the High Court on appeal.
Wicknell Chivayo, a director of Intratrek Zimbabwe, was acquitted by the High Court after a successful exception application.