By Alex Bell
14 March 2013
A regional anti-corruption grouping has slammed the deliberate interference of two investigations being carried out by the Zimbabwe Anti Corruption Commission (ZACC), calling it “disturbing.”
The ZACC was barred from carrying out two separate legal searches this week, after being granted search warrants by a High Court judge on Monday. The warrants, signed by Judge Charles Hungwe, gave ZACC investigators the legal right to conduct searches at the Harare based offices of the Zimbabwe Mining and Development Corporation (ZMDC) and the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board (NIEEB).
The NIEEB premises were blocked by armed men who barred the investigators access to the offices on two occasions on Monday and on Tuesday. 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.
Both the ZMDC and the NIEEB have since filed urgent applications at the High Court seeking to legally bar the ZACC searches. This matter was heard on Thursday, and according to the ZBC an interdict was granted, stopping ZACC from performing the raids.
The ZBC quoted the NIEEB and ZMDC legal representative Gerald Mlotshwa, who said that ZACC does not have the power to obtain a search warrant from a judge of the High Court. Mlotshwa reportedly argued that a High Court judge does not have the power to issue search warrants unless it relates to an actual criminal trial he or she is dealing with.
The Anti Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (ACT-Southern Africa) said on Thursday that the interference of ZACC’s duties was part of a “disturbing trend,” involving ZANU PF politicians. ZMDC falls under the Mines ministry headed by Obert Mpofu, while NIEEB falls under the Indigenisation and Empowerment ministry headed by Saviour Kasukuwere.
“In this case we see a legally constituted body being barred from its work by some guys in the government who are above the law. It is a disturbing trend,” said Alouis Munyaradzi Chaumba, the Regional Coordinator of ACT-Southern Africa
Chaumba also told SW Radio Africa that while the Commission’s attempts to probe corruption were welcome, ACT-Southern Africa was not confident that this is a sign of meaningful change.
“You always find that just before an election you require change like this, and people can be hoodwinked into believing that the Commission is going to bite. But then nothing happens,” Chaumba said.
He added: “But we are pleased to see some movement by the Commission to do something. Especially if you look at the mines ministry which is a very important ministry in terms of the diamonds that are being unearthed and how they could contribute to national development. This is where we want to see transparency.”
Chaumba also added that political will is ultimately standing in the way of the Commission successfully rooting out the problem of corruption in Zimbabwe.
“We need political will to allow certain commissions of government to work without any hindrance. This is the will we do not have at the moment,” he said.