Kuda Bwititi and Lincoln Towindo
The long arm of the law has caught up with current and former top executives of the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) who are set to appear in court soon on allegations of corruption and underhand dealings that are estimated to have prejudiced the statutory body of millions of dollars.
The case is one of several high-profile cases being pursued by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
Government has declared war on corruption and has since launched anti-corruption courts in Harare and Bulawayo.
Presently, the NPA is part of an inter-agency team prying into scores of high-profile cases involving irregular distribution of urban and peri-urban land, externalisation of foreign currency and the flouting of tender procedures.
Prosecutor-General Mr Kumbirai Hodzi told The Sunday Mail last week that Zinara executives are likely to appear in court anytime this week.
“Some top officials and former top officials have been arrested. The prejudice runs into millions of dollars. We are still doing a number of things to unpack all that happened. I do not want to prejudice the rights of the accused and all I can do is to allude to the case without making any particular references,” said Mr Hodzi.
He said corruption at Zinara, which had gone unpunished for several years, had limited its ability to rehabilitate the country’s roads.
“With the Zinara (case), you will be very angry because it shows people, whatever they were doing, at the end of the day, were corrupting the whole system for their personal benefit.
“Money that was supposed to go to roads did not go there.”
It is understood that the NPA has been given carte blanche to prosecute the cases.
Mr Hodzi said, “The Zinara case is one of the high-profile matters which was delayed, it should have been prosecuted years ago. When I came in, even the Executive were quite upset with the matter and they have given us full blessings to get to the bottom of the matter.”
The noose is also reportedly tightening on suspected land barons.
“We have teams on the ground. I know for certain what most of the issues are. It is not only in Harare, but countrywide, places such as Gweru and Victoria Falls. Some of the culprits include a mixture of businesspeople and politicians.”
Mr Hodzi was appointed acting PG following the suspension and subsequent resignation of Advocate Ray Goba.
The new broom at the NPA has since undertaken a major shake-up at the crime-fighting unit.
The Sunday Mail has established that the NPA, working in collaboration with the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and the Special Anti-Corruption Unit in the Office of the President and Cabinet, has unearthed several damning cases that will soon spill into court.
Some cases involve individuals and companies that disregarded President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s amnesty to return externalised funds and assets.
The NPA is also reportedly feeding off evidence that is being gathered by the Justice Uchena Commission of Inquiry on the sale of State land in order to bring implicated culprits to book.
So far, two dockets have been completed.
Measures have also been taken to prevent corruption among prosecutors and ensure that cases are attended to expeditiously.
The NPA will therefore be deploying at least three senior prosecutors for high-profile cases.
Acquittals will be subject to rigorous scrutiny.
Furthermore, a directive has also been issued to ensure that graft cases are concluded within a three-month period.
Added Mr Hodzi: “Further, when handling a matter now, there will be a minimum of three serious prosecutors as counter-measures and counter-controls.
“This is for serious matters that include commercial offences and serious crimes and every matter of corruption is regarded as a serious offence, especially if it is involving abuse of office.
“Why those controls? We want to ensure that for trials, there is high quality evidence, the dockets that we produce are of sufficiently high quality such that we are assured of conviction.”
Prosecutors, he said, are no longer allowed to keep dockets for inordinately long periods of time.
“We are giving ourselves three months to ensure that everything is in order and trial dates are set.
“Within that period, everything must be set up with the docket ready for prosecutions.
“Prosecutions must also be continuous, there must be no long remands, even trial dates,” said Mr Hodzi.
“Periods of trial, depending on the case, the complexity of the matter and the quality and length of evidence, are set at three and four days.
“It is no longer the case that a person is remanded for trial and then when they come for trial, the matter spills over and is rolled over to the following month.
“Trials must now be completed in the shortest possible time and long remands, unless there are compelling reasons, must be avoided,” he said.