Source: No one above the law — ED | The Herald October 13, 2016
Zvamaida Murwira: Senior Reporter
• Only President immune to criminal prosecution
• Everyone else is fair game, says Vice President
EVERYONE, including Cabinet ministers and Vice Presidents, can be prosecuted if there are reasonable grounds to suspect the commission of crime as they are not above the law, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said.He said in terms of the Constitution, only the President was immune to criminal prosecution and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) was a State arm mandated with investigating and dealing with cases of corruption.
VP Mnangagwa said this in the National Assembly yesterday while responding to questions from Members of Parliament who quizzed him why Acting President Phelekezela Mphoko had defended Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo and his deputy Dr Godfrey Gandawa, saying their arrest would destabilise the Government.
The two ministers face allegations of siphoning hundreds of thousands of dollars from Zimdef. Musikavanhu MP Mr Prosper Mutseyami (MDC-T) had asked if the law was still relevant given that this was not the first time Acting President Mphoko had allegedly frustrated ZACC operations after he once directed the release of two Zinara bosses charged with fraud.
Said Mr Mutseyami; “Thank you Madam Speaker. My supplementary question Hon. Vice President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa is that you have said that there are ways to deal with corruption such as (Zimbabwe) Anti-Corruption Commission. As Vice President who is the leader of this House, we have observed that there is endemic corruption (reports) in the newspapers, especially concerning Zimdef where there was a misappropriation of funds.
“The (Zimbabwe) Anti-Corruption Commission wanted to arrest ministers implicated in this case, Hon. Minister Jonathan Moyo and Deputy Minister Dr (Godfrey) Gandawa. The (Zimbabwe) Anti-Corruption Commission was barred from arresting the minister and his deputy.
They were barred from arresting these individuals by the Hon. Vice President Mphoko. Once people are given a phone call direct in the (Zimbabwe) Anti-Corruption Commission not to arrest a certain individuals — will the commission work, will that become effective?
“Thereafter, he went on the national television threatening this country that no minister will be arrested because I have said so, if you arrest the minister, you will distabilise the Government. Are we therefore going to allow ministers to steal with impunity? Who is causing or promoting corruption here? The person who is protecting those who are corrupt! May you please clarify Hon. Vice President?”
Responded VP Mnangagwa: “I thank the Hon. Member for his supplementary question. What the Hon. Member should bear in mind is that in this country, this House and in his own understanding is that no one has immunity except the President. Everyone else in this country is fair game. They are not above the law — [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.] — There is no one above the law. If the Hon. Member is aware that someone did not follow the law, they should go to the powers that carry out this work and then they will be able to conduct their duty.”
Binga North MP Mr Prince Sibanda (MDC-T) also asked if there were any prospects that ZACC would effectively discharge its work following reports that they were continuously being frustrated.
He asked: “Thank you Madam Speaker. I wish I could also speak in Ndau or in Shona but none the less, let me put my supplementary question in English. Hon. Vice President, you have properly put it that everyone is subject to the law including the Hon. Vice President, yourself and your colleague. However, it is on record Hon. Leader of the House that Hon. Mphoko, your co-Vice President has been interfering with processes of trying to address where there is suspicion of a crime having been committed.
There is an issue of Avondale Police Station where he physically and personally went and had to order the release of suspects that were under police custody. Is there any prospect that under those circumstances, law enforcement agencies will play their role properly when they know that the Executive hierarchy, including that of the Vice President can simply go and stop the actions that they would have taken? Thank you.”
Responding to the question, VP Mnangagwa said; “Hon. Speaker, I would want to reiterate and share the knowledge for the benefit of this august House. He said it is on record but he did not mention which record but we believe that there is record. However, if he could have further stated which record it could have been better for us. The current position is that two things could be done. You as an individual Member, are entitled to go to the law enforcement agency and say the law has been broken. If the police have seen that there is a law that was broken, the law enforcement agency will take its course.”
Proportionate Representative, Ms Ronia Bunjira, asked if it was Government policy for Prof Moyo to use Zimdef funds to fund youth activities from political parties or the Zimbabwe Youth Council as what had emerged from media reports that the minister had written a letter to Chief Secretary to the Office of the President and Cabinet, Dr Misheck Sibanda saying 100 000 litres had funded the One Million Men March.
VP Mnangagwa said there was no such policy for Prof Moyo to divert Zimdef funds to fund political activities for any political party.
“That is not Government policy. But my problem is that I have not yet seen the said letter for me to comment competently,” said VP Mnangagwa.
He said legislators were free to push for the improvement of the laws if they were of the view that legal provisions dealing with corruption were not adequate.
“We have ZACC that we have agreed in this House to deal with issues of corruption. Outside that law, we have several other laws like fraud, murder, if MPs finds any gaps they are free to come forward,” said VP Mnangagwa.
Responding to another question, VP Mnangagwa said preparations of the 2018 harmonised elections were going on well.
“It is true that we intend to go the biometric way because that is what was agreed between political parties. That programme is well advanced in terms of its implementation and funding,” said VP Mnangagwa.
VP Mnangagwa said judicial officers and litigants were free to use languages that they were comfortable with.
Buhera South MP Cde Joseph Chinotimba (Zanu-PF) had asked why Judges and magistrates did not use vernacular languages in circumstances when the accused person was using it. Cde Chinotimba gave an example of Parliament where presiding officers or Cabinet Ministers responded using the same language that a backbencher would have used in raising a question. On another matter, VP Mnangagwa said he would continue encouraging Cabinet Ministers to attend question time at Parliament.
He was responding to complaints raised by Kuwadzana East MP Mr Nelson Chamisa (MDC-T) who had moved that Ministers who were failing to attend Parliament without seeking leave should be charged with contempt.