BY BRIAN CHITEMBA
THE Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) has come up with a cocktail of measures to combat rampant corruption through amending the Anti-Corruption Act, pushing for a whistleblower protection law, the confiscation of ill-gotten wealth together with international bodies and a call for increased budgetary allocation.
Corruption has been a major headache for the government from the late former president Robert Mugabe to the “new dispensation” led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Some government officials, including ministers and directors, have been arrested over allegations of corruption. Some of the cases are pending in courts.
Illicit financial flows cost the economy billions of dollars, annually through mineral leakages, tender irregularities, drug trafficking and bribery, among others.
Zacc has been criticised as a “toothless bulldog” over its lethargic approach to anti-graft enforcement, but the new commission says it’s tightening the legal framework to win the war against corruption in high places.
This week, Zacc chairperson Justice Loyce Matanda-Moyo told the 9th session of the conference of state parties to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNODC) in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, that a process was underway to amend several pieces of legislation to fully combat corruption.
“Your Excellencies, I am pleased to note that Zimbabwe has continued to make significant progress in addressing corruption through the amendment of several pieces of legislation and policies to ensure compliance with the provisions of UNCAC. Under Article II preventative measures, more than 60 pieces of legislation and policies were reviewed, in addition, 26 institutions were engaged, and they provided information which was used in the self-assessment checklist,” Matanda-Moyo said.
“Zimbabwe, is however, in the process of coming up with whistleblower and witness protection legislation and an amendment to the Anti-Corruption Act to include sector-specific offences of corruption that promote and enhance the development of an adequate and effective legal framework for the fight against corruption.”
Matanda-Moyo said there was serious focus on tightening extradition processes and return of stolen assets.
This requires the amendment of the Criminal Matters (Mutual Assistance) Act to extend the scope of application of the Act to some states which have not been designated.
“Zimbabwe has further enhanced synergies with other international bodies having signed a consultancy agreement with the International Centre for Asset recovery where we are working closely with the organisation in the process of identification and recovery of stolen assets and capacity building in financial investigations,” Matanda-Moyo said.
Zacc reported that it was engaging authorities in South Africa and the Isle of Man to forfeit properties bought through proceeds of crime.
Also recently, Matanda-Moyo said, law enforcement agencies successfully won a High Court application for unexplained wealth orders, which saw the forfeiture of a house worth US$100 000.
A new asset management unit has since been established for the preservation of property pending confiscation.
“Under Article V, Zimbabwe gazetted the amended Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act on February 21, 2020. This act has provisions that allow enforcement authorities to make applications to the High Court in respect of any property presumed to be tainted. The act further imposes sanctions on persons who make false or misleading statements in response to unexplained wealth orders and such statements may be used as evidence in a criminal proceeding,” Matanda-Moyo said.
The Zacc chief noted that the Finance Act of 2018 has established the Public Finance Technical Response Unit under the Accountant-General for the purposes of recovering misappropriated wealth and institution of criminal proceedings in cases where red flags were raised by the Accountant-General.
“The Companies and other Business Entities Act gazetted in 2020 now criminalises the fraudulent, reckless or grossly negligent conduct of business, falsification of records and obligates companies to maintain and file beneficial ownership information,” Matanda-Moyo said.
Zacc has also operationalised a memorandum of understanding with the Auditor-General’s Office to deal with corruption matters raised in the latter’s annual reports. Consequently, the anti-graft body has raided government ministries, departments and councils to deal with any malfeasance.
“The government continues to support the work of Chapter 13 institutions mandated to fight corruption to ensure that they discharge their mandate professionally and effectively without any fear or favour. The thrust of the government’s strategy is to have coordinated and amplified efforts from all stakeholders which include the law enforcement agencies, the Judiciary, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), all government institutions and Parliament, private sector, civil society, media and the members of the public.
“In the year 2021, the government set aside ZW$3,6 billion (about US$33,3 million) for operations and capital requirements for all the institutions in the fight against corruption. For the coming year 2022, the government has increased the budgetary support for the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission by 300%.”
Zimbabwe is a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) which it signed on February 20, 2004 and ratified on March 8, 2007. Zimbabwe also subscribes to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that speaks to promotion of peaceful societies for sustainable development, access to justice for all, effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels among others.
“Zimbabwe has continuously evaluated her progress in fighting corruption since the ratification and adoption of UNCAC by participating in both the review mechanisms provided by the Convention. The implementation by Zimbabwe of chapters II and V of the convention were reviewed in the first year of the second cycle. I wish to acknowledge the focal point and governmental experts who worked tirelessly to ensure that the review of Zimbabwe was conducted timelessly as well as managing to conduct the reviews for the Central African Republic and Russian Federation which I am advised are now in their final stages,” Matanda-Moyo said.
“Zimbabwe values the recommendations from Republics of Cabo Verde and Angola and wishes to share that on July 11, 2021, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe (Emmerson Mnangagwa) launched the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) for 2020-2024. The development of the NACS fulfils the requirements of Article 5 of the UNCAC as it includes input from all stakeholders in both the public and private sector. In addition, this strategy is time-bound and allows for a monitoring and evaluation process.”
The anti-corruption strategy has six objectives which are supporting citizen empowerment and awareness of their rights and responsibilities relevant to the fight against corruption and enhancing the structures for detection and enforcement through improved compliance with anti-corruption and integrity management obligations and mechanisms across sectors.
It also aims to increase public demand for transparency and accountability and rejection of corruption in government offices, ministries, agencies and State-owned enterprises (SOEs)/parastatals, public institutions, media houses and the private sector.