Blessings Chidakwa and Vongai Chinjeke
All corruption cases will now be completed within six months from date of a suspect’s first appearance although very complex cases can be given a year, in a move to speed up trials that have been dragging on for years.
Speaking at the signing ceremony of memorandum of understanding between the National Prosecuting Authority and Transparency International Zimbabwe last Friday, acting Prosecutor-General Mr Nelson Mutsonziwa said frantic efforts were being made to clear a huge backlog of court cases.
Mr Mutsonziwa said the NPA intends to be a high-performing institution whose results must speak for themselves. Empty statements did not help them at all, so the approach is now “action speaks louder than words” so this shall be the NPA mantra.
“As regard the speed of prosecution and completion of these matters, concerns have been raised about delays. However may I submit that any delays occasioned by dilatoriness or lethargy on our part have been decisively dealt with but the delay occasioned by the law can only be addressed through another law being introduced.
“Recently, the National Anti-Corruption Committee chairperson reported that all the stakeholders in the criminal justice system had agreed that non-complex corruption cases trials be completed within six months from date of initial appearance and 12 months for complex cases. That we confirm.”
Acting PG Mutsonziwa also said the law or rules must make it feasible for a corruption matter to be disposed of within a specific period, and this is the work that Parliament needs to attend to.
“It is a serious policy statement that, in my view should also be complemented by legislation so that the speed of processing of the criminal matters is not left to magnanimity or persuasion of one another but that by the compulsion or dictate of the law the cases are speedily dealt with.
“This is the case with the Election Petition Cases, which are regulated by a law that prescribes that they be initiated and disposed of within a period of 6 months,” he said.
Mr Mutsonziwa said a lot of work had already been done in dealing with corruption, and is being done and the results will speak for themselves soon.
He said as reported recently the NPA had financial crimes cases involving huge amounts of money being prosecuted at Harare Magistrates Court, where there are eight cases in Harare, and in Bulawayo three.
“Furthermore we have about 19 non-financial with profile cases, 12 involve the City of Harare Council employees and seven cases involve Chitungwiza council employees, all now being prosecuted and in total we have 102 cases that were set down.
“The above figures are part of the 102 cases. In respect of most of them, trial has commenced or about to do so,” he said.
Mr Mutsonziwa said with regard to asset forfeiture matters, orders had been obtained from the High Court in respect of five out of the 15 files cases the NPA recently received from Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission.
“The results of two of the five cases have already been reported in the media. Apart from the 15, another 12 were already pending before the High Court and they are at various stages of prosecution.
“So far we have completed four, three were successfully prosecuted, one case was dismissed as the property involved turned out to be owned by a trust on behalf of the state. All these cases involve thousand and millions of US$ dollars’ worth of assets bought using proceeds of crime,” he said.
The NPA was relentless in the fight against corruption and would ensure that every case was soundly and appropriately dealt without fear or favour whether it relates to organized crime or not.
Through training in the various fields of the law and through feedback from the prosecutors, the NPA had been able to identify that there is need for a law that provides for speedy prosecutions.