HARARE – The Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) has bemoaned the “underutilisation” of special anti-corruption courts especially in the prosecution of high-profile white-collar crimes.
The special anti- corruption courts were set up by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) in March last year in an effort to expeditiously deal with graft cases and dispose of them in an efficient and effective manner.
The courts were set up in line with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s anti-corruption drive.
Following his vow, ex-Cabinet ministers and other erstwhile influential government officials were arrested on various corruption related charges which they allegedly committed whilst in office.
In an interview with the Daily News on Sunday, LSZ president Misheck Hogwe said the special courts are yet to realise their full potential.
He expressed dissatisfaction at the pace at which high-profile white-collar crimes have been dealt with so far amidst indications the majority of high-profile individuals arrested on graft related charges are yet to be tried.
Hogwe said it is their hope that greater commitment to the fight against corruption will be exhibited by all stakeholders this year.
“The JSC led the way by setting up the courts. It is now up to the law enforcement agents to investigate these matters and for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to ensure expeditious and effective prosecution,” Hogwe told the Daily News on Sunday.
He added: “The fight against corruption is a national one. No single player in the justice delivery sector can do it alone. The police and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) should be aggressive and thorough.”
Hogwe challenged the Nationa Prosecution Authority (NPA) to take advantage of the special courts to expeditiously prosecute high profile corruption matters.
In setting up the special courts, seven magistrates were chosen to deal with the corruption matters in Harare while five magistrates were selected in Bulawayo.
Mnangagwa also set up a team of lawyers and prosecutors and lawyers to form the Special Anti-Corruption Unit in his office to deal with graft.
Selected members of the prosecution team underwent training on handling corruption matters.
Regarding measures being taken by the organisation in dealing with legal practitioners, Hogwe told this publication that they have upped their regulatory role.
He said in 2018, LSZ received a number of misdemeanours, which include abuse of trust funds.
“A number of lawyers have been deregistered and some cases are pending before the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal. Most members who were deregistered had been found guilty of abuse of Trust Funds,” he said.
Hogwe attributed the misconduct to the growth of the profession in a dwindling market, among other factors.
In May last year, LSZ barred 40 lawyers from practising for various reasons, including not having practicing certificates.
In December, LSZ raised the bar for one to practice as an advocate and started enforcing that all lawyers undergo mandatory post-graduate training known as pupillage before practicing on their own.
The new regulations require all graduate lawyers to undergo mandatory post graduate experience under a practicing lawyer or law firm before they are issued with a practicing certificate or recognised as advocates.
According to Hogwe, the new regulation is meant to improve standards of the profession.