By Alex Bell
13 March 2013
The constitutionally mandated anti-corruption watchdog was this week barred from carrying out two separate legal searches, in a move that has been described as ‘scandalous’.
The Zimbabwe Anti Corruption Commission was granted search warrants by the High Court on Monday, allowing it to search the premises of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), and the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board (NIEEB).
On Monday and Tuesday, attempts were made by the Commission to search the NIEEB offices in Harare, but those attempts were blocked by armed men who barred the investigators access to the premises.
The Commission’s offices were then reportedly stormed by armed police on Tuesday, who blocked a team of investigators from carrying out the ZMDC raid.
According to the NewsDay newspaper, the police action blocking the ZMDC probe was a result of an urgent call made by the ZMDC chairman Godwills Masimirembwa to Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri.
The police have denied this is the case, but NewsDay quoted Masimirembwa as saying that he made the call because the Commission team was supposed to be accompanied by the police. Masimirembwa also said ZMDC lawyers would be challenging the legality of the High Court warrant on the grounds that it was not issued by the proper authority.
The NIEEB is also set to contest the Commission’s warrant, which was granted by the High Court after a Magistrates Court dismissed it.
The NIEEB has been implicated in massive corruption, made public by the Daily News newspaper, which last month uncovered serious flaws in the nearly $1 billion Zimplats indigenisation deal. Daily News journalist Gift Phiri, who has been investigating the NIEEB activities, said the attempts to bar the anti-corruption probe were “scandalous.”
“I don’t understand why they are stonewalling the investigation. It seems like there is some kind of cover up happening,” Phiri told SW Radio Africa.
He added that this makes the situation more suspicious than it was “because these actions don’t paint a good picture in terms of transparency.”