President Mnangagwa has repeatedly stated that the Second Republic has a zero tolerance to corruption. The Sunday Mail’s Tanyaradzwa Rusike spoke to the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission spokesperson, Commissioner John Makamure, on strategies being deployed by the anti-graft watchdog to combat corruption.
Q: Zimbabwe recently joined the rest of the African Continent in commemorating the fifth African Anti-Corruption Day which also coincided with the launch of the ZACC Strategic Plan and the 1st anniversary of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy. What is your assessment of the county’s fight against corruption?
A: The African Anti-Corruption Day is an important day on the calendar of the nation and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, as indeed it is, for all other anti-corruption agencies on the continent.
The day came to life in the wake of a declaration by African Union member states to collectively fight corruption, which has become a global menace.
The mere decision to set aside a specific day to commemorate the fight against corruption on the continent is ample testimony of the commitment by member states to fight the vice.
Coming to Zimbabwe, significant strides have been made in the fight against the scourge.
For starters, Zimbabwe is a signatory to the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AU Convention), SADC Protocol against Corruption (SADC Protocol), and the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC).
All these Conventions demand that Zimbabwe establishes an effective anti-corruption agency, whose efficacy is achievable by formulating robust strategies to curb corruption.
Secondly, Zimbabwe subscribes to the African Union aspiration for Agenda 2063 which speaks of an Africa characterised by good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law.
Additionally, Zimbabwe subscribes to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG 16 on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions with emphasis on SDG 16.4 and 16.5.
As a result, all policies, strategies and action plans implemented by Government and its agencies speak to the goals set out in the SDGs, Agenda 2063 and the Conventions to which Zimbabwe is a state party.
To date, Zimbabwe has performed quite commendably in abiding by the provisions of these protocols in the fight against corruption.
The Commission spearheaded the development of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) (2020-2024) which was officially launched by His Excellency, President Mnangagwa on July 11, 2020.
This is the national roadmap to the eradication of corruption in order to realise Vision 2030.
It is premised on the spirit of a unified front in the fight against corruption through coordinated and amplified efforts from all stakeholders, which include the law enforcement agencies, the Judiciary, the National Prosecuting Authority, all Government institutions and departments, private sector, civil society, media and members of the public.
Together with the latest document, the ZACC Strategic Plan (2021 – 2023), Zimbabwe now has a robust strategic framework to achieve its desired goals in combating corruption.
This year alone, at least 110 arrests have been made with 79 cases having already been sent to the NPA for prosecution.
This places the Commission in a favourable position to meet its target of submitting 180 dockets to the NPA for prosecution.
Progress has also been made towards establishing a legal framework for protection of whistle-blowers through the Lay Bill which was drafted and sent to the Attorney General’s office.
Another area of interest is asset recovery where the latest figures indicate that in 2021 alone, ZACC has referred six cases to the NPA to make applications for the recovery of ill-gotten wealth.
The cases have a combined value of $173 million.
There are numerous other cases with values in millions of dollars that ZACC is following up on.
To ensure inclusivity of the citizenry in the fight against corruption, ZACC is finalising the decentralisation programme, with offices being opened in at least six of the country’s 10 provinces.
In Harare alone, ZACC now has four offices where people can go and report corruption.
Q: Last year, you launched the National Anti-Corruption Strategy, how much progress have you made in implementing the strategy and how has it helped in the fight against graft?
A: As alluded to earlier, the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) (2020-2024) which is the national roadmap to eradicating corruption, was launched on July 11, 2020 by President Mnangagwa.
Its primary objective is to create a unified front in the fight against corruption through coordinated and amplified efforts from all stakeholders.
These key stakeholders include the law enforcement agencies, the Judiciary, the National Prosecuting Authority, all Government Institutions and Departments, private sector, civil society, media and the members of the public. This co-ordinated approach has made it possible for the different stakeholders to work together to fight the graft.
It has enabled the Commission to receive considerable support from the Government, which has enabled ZACC to invest in highly qualified and motivated personnel who are critical to the Commission meeting this target.
As of April 2021, 36 more investigators had been recruited including some who are in the process of being deployed to provinces to ensure we have active coverage of all corners of Zimbabwe. Among the recent recruitments are officers with different expertise ranging from forensics, information communication technology, financial intelligence, tax, finance and accounting and legal among other expertise.
This specialised expertise is critical in the unravelling of complex corruption cases.
Other notable recommendations that came about from the NACS steering committee include strategies to lessen dependence on Treasury. This has resulted in the proposals for retention of a certain percentage of assets that the Commission would have recovered in order to boost funding for our operations.
This is a best practice by other anti-corruption agencies.
The same steering committee is now actively pushing the relevant authorities to come up with whistle-blowers protection legislation and strengthen the prosecution of corruption cases. These are critical issues receiving due attention at higher levels of decision-making.
Q: Can you outline the Commission’s successes and challenges since the coming in of the new Commissioners?
A: In 2020, the Commission met its target to send more than 90 cases to the National Prosecution Authority, giving optimism to achieve better hence the setting of a higher target of 180 cases in 2021. We are on course to achieve this as highlighted earlier. Perhaps what is of interest is the commitment to pursue and prosecute high profile cases.
As at April, the Commission was handling nine high profile cases, notably HCR109/12/20 involving former Commissioner of Police in Charge of Matabeleland North Province, Erasmus Makodza, who is being charged with criminal abuse of duty as a public officer.
The other high profile cases include Rusape Town Secretary Solomon Gabaza, charged with criminal abuse of office as well as Councillor Clever Chimuse of Rusape who faces similar charges.
There are several others that are still under investigation and arrests will be made once investigations have been completed.
To ensure that the cases are expeditiously dealt with, the current Commission has resorted to sending completed dockets to the Prosecutor General’s Office so that most of the time we proceed by way of summons.
The accused persons are summoned to court and tried. In doing this, we have ensured that unlike in previous years, we protect our witnesses. This Commission has also come up with a paradigm shift in the fight against corruption by recognising that the anti-corruption drive is not only motivated by arrests.
We are now placing equal emphasis on preventing corruption.
In that regard, we have started a roundtable interaction with internal auditors for Government departments, parastatals, public entities and commissions. We want to ensure that all the recommendations in the Auditor General’s reports are implemented.
Accordingly, we are working with the internal audit departments of those institutions to ensure that all the recommendations are implemented. We are forging ahead with compliance assessments, spot-checks, and systems and processes reviews. For instance, we have completed reviewing Mutoko Rural District Council and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.
We are finalising reviews at the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development, Umguza Rural District Council, Norton Town Council and Umzingwane Rural District Council.
Other local authorities and public entities are on the radar.
ZACC examines the practices, systems and procurement procedures in the particular organisations to ensure they adhere to the best standards of good corporate governance.
In instances where we find that there are no systems in place we assist that particular organisation in the formulation of proper systems that prevent corrupt and fraudulent practices from taking place. Once we do that, we monitor the implementation of the recommendations.
Once institutions have systems in place and are fully complying with them we will certainly reduce corruption by a wide margin.
As the common adage says “prevention is better than cure”. We have also created a dashboard as a monitoring tool for the institutions.
After our compliance checks we put institutions into categories of red, orange and green.
Red is for institutions with no systems or those that have systems but are non-compliant, green for those with systems and are implementing them and amber are institutions which are half way. We give them an implementation matrix and a time frame in which to ensure that the systems are in place.
After the timeframe we return to the institution to carry out another compliance check to verify if they have complied with our recommendations. In short, this Commission places equal emphasis on prevention and investigations for prosecution and asset recovery.
Don’t get me wrong – we will still investigate cases of corruption but we want to ensure there is a stop to these corrupt activities being committed by the introduction of transparent systems. We have not been without challenges but we do not believe they are insurmountable.
Resources are never adequate.
We are, however, grateful for the assistance that we have received from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development which has enabled us to acquire offices and vehicles for use by our staff to execute the mandate of the Commission. We still need more support though, considering that we are opening provincial offices to increase our presence all around the country.
The Commission would like to sincerely thank our development partners for supplementing the resources.
Q: How many arrests has the Commission made since the appointment of the current Commissioners?
A: Over and above the 110 arrests made this year alone, the Commission referred 131 dockets to the NPA for prosecution in 2020. Of those 131 dockets, 41 were high-profile and the cases are at different stages of prosecution.
Q: How many of those arrests have led to convictions?
A: In 2020, we recorded a number of convictions, notably former Principal Director in the Office of the President and Cabinet (State Residence) Douglas Tapfuma, former Minister of Energy and Power Development Samuel Undenge, former PetroZim Line (Pvt) Limited managing director Cathrine Katsande, former ZMDC (Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation) chief executive officer David Murangari, former of ZINARA (Zimbabwe National Roads Administration) acting chief executive Moses Jumo, ZMDC’s Luke Akino and one Paddington Kadzungura.
Only three accused people were acquitted.
Q: We understand that ZACC has started the process to track down, seize and repatriate movable and immovable assets in foreign lands which were acquired through proceeds of crime by locals. Can you give us an update on the progress made so far in that regard?
A: Indeed, ZACC has identified such assets as follows: –
Assets identified internationally as proceeds of crime originating from Zimbabwe.
The assets which were identified to have been siphoned illicitly and externalised through corruption and money laundering from Zimbabwe to foreign jurisdictions are estimated at US$7 billion. The investigations through formal and informal cooperation processes have commenced for some of the identified assets.
Assets identified and seized as proceeds of crime for civil confiscation in Zimbabwe in 2020.
In 2020, of the thirty-six (36) asset recovery cases with a value of US$4,5 million which were under investigations by ZACC, ten (10) case files were referred to the National Prosecuting Authority with a value of USD$ 3 245 000.
Assets recovered through High Court orders in 2020.
In December 2020, the High Court granted an order for the forfeiture of a property worth US$ 120 000 belonging to Russell Mwenye (High Court reference HACC15/20).
Assets identified and seized as proceeds of crime for civil forfeiture confiscation and unexplained wealth orders in 2021.
In 2021, the cases under investigation for asset recovery have cumulatively risen to forty-three (43) cases with value of assets identified and seized amounting to US$24 100 000.
Q: There are some whistle-blowers who claim that they have been victimised. What is the latest on protection of whistle-blowers?
A: A whistle-blower is an individual that exposes any activity that is illegal, unethical, or not correct within an organisation.
The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, in its relentless fight against the cancer, recognises the important role played by whistle-blowers. The Commission notes with dismay that despite its obligations to fully protect whistle-blowers within the provisions of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, the African Union Convention against Corruption and the SADC Protocol against Corruption, there remains a legal vacuum in the full protection of whistle-blowers.
ZACC has indeed received reports of victimisation of whistle-blowers that are vital to the nation’s fight against corruption.
Against that background, the Commission is advocating for the necessary policy and legal environment that fully protects whistle-blowers.
Part of these efforts includes drafting a Lay Bill which has been submitted to the Attorney General’s Office. We are fully confident that this piece of legislation will be enacted into law sooner rather than later. We received a boost towards this when the President, Cde ED Mnangagwa directed the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Ziyambi Ziyambi, to expeditiously complete work on the Bill.
ZACC has come up with an online whistle-blower reporting application to ensure that whistle-blowers are able to report corruption.
The application is designed to ensure full anonymity of the whistle-blowers. This year alone, the Commission has received 88 anonymous reports on corrupt activities via this platform. The National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) steering committee has established a sub-committee that is dedicated to ensuring the full protection of whistle-blowers.