Source: ‘No going back on property recoveries’ | The Herald 05 OCT, 2019The Interview Zvamaida Murwira
The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) this week signed Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with several stakeholders who included the police, National Prosecuting Authority, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s Financial Intelligence Unit, Auditor-General’s Office and Immigration Department, among other stakeholders. Our Senior Reporter Zvamaida Murwira (ZM) caught up with ZACC chairperson Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo (LM) to discuss these and other issues pertaining to the anti-graft body’s work. The following are excerpts of the interview:
ZM: What have been the major challenges the Commission has faced since you assumed office and how have they been dealt with?
LM: When ZACC started I just came in as a chairperson. So we only pushed those matters which were already under investigation. When the new commissioners came in, they still had to acclimatise and go through induction, so things slowed down a bit, but now they are picking up, we are now ready to go. All the formalities are complete; we are ready to work.
ZM: Do you have any priority areas of investigations that you are focussing on at the moment?
LM: Yes, we are focusing on investigations for purposes of prosecutions and investigations for purposes of asset recovery. As you know, when I was appointed, I made it a point and stressed that the new ZACC will concentrate on asset recovery. People should not benefit from the proceeds of crime.
So we want to make sure that we recover everything that was stolen from the nation. So right now we are also concentrating on, apart from the criminal investigations, linking evidence to the properties that were purchased with a view to recover those properties whether in Zimbabwe or outside. We have also been busy with coming up with agreements with other countries. In two weeks’ time, I will be signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Botswana. I should be signing one again with Zambia soon, so that it will be easier for us to recover assets across the border and internationally as well.
ZM: Earlier, there have been reports that ZACC commissioners were receiving death threats. Are the commissioners safe?
LM: We are quite safe. Zimbabweans are peace-loving people. In this game it is quite normal to be threatened but you must not take these threats too far; they are just meaningless. When you try to get properties from persons, obviously they get offended and they want to try and hold on to that property, but they will soon realise that it is a lost war. We are not backing off, we are going to recover all that property.
ZM: You made reference to monies that were externalised. Are you going to use a list that was published by the President on monies that were externalised?
LM: We are investigating on our own. We have got our own list. Once we do criminal investigations and there is evidence of looting of some funds, we then try to track those funds, wherever they are. We are in the process of also signing agreements with international institutions who are going to help us in tracing and tracking those funds so that where know where the funds are then we recover those funds.
In terms of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, I am glad to say these countries have got an obligation to actually cooperate with member states to recover those funds illicitly siphoned outside the country. Therefore, it should be easy because it is mandatory for those countries to cooperate with member states.
ZM: What is the significance of the MoUs that ZACC has signed with stakeholders in terms of discharging its duties?
LM: It is going to make our life a lot easier. We are now going to fight corruption as a group, not as ZACC alone. As you can see, we have also roped in universities. Our laws are also not user friendly, so we want those universities to help us draft legislation which will make it easier to deal with corruption matters. We cannot deal with corruption in the usual way.
ZM: In other words, it is your view that there is need for legal reforms to enhance your work?
LM: Definitely, even the rules of the courts must change. As you can see right now, we have got Anti-Corruption Courts but only at magistrates’ level. Once you go to the superior courts, corruption matters are not handled with priority. We also need that to change. We need corruption matters to be handled faster. They must be dealt with efficiently and effectively so that we can also be able to recover.
If we take too long dealing with corruption matters, then we will not be able to recover anything. By the time we are through with a criminal matter the person would have moved all those funds and we will not be able to recover anything. So, we really need those laws to be changed so that it is easier to deal with corruption.
ZM: Related to that, there have been concerns about absence of conviction of accused persons. What, in your view, is the problem and way forward?
LM: In the past, the investigations have not been thorough, but if you have followed events recently, there are now convictions. Investigations have actually improved. As you can see, we have now engaged everyone. All the expertise that we need. We have engaged the Financial Inteligence Unit, Zimra, Immigration, who can profile persons so we will have all the evidence that we need to secure conviction.
ZM: What is your estimated value of assets that you might have recovered as ZACC arising from your efforts?
LM: We are only forfeiting as ZACC then we take it to the National Prosecuting Authority who will go to court for confirmation. As ZACC, the goods we are holding on right now run into hundreds of millions of Zimbabwe dollars because right now, we are in the process of preparing papers for the recovery of properties in our leafy suburbs. In Borrowdale, we are looking at over 10 properties with high value, and we have got so many vehicles now which we have targeted, others we already have in our possession.