ZIMBABWEANS are waiting to see how the police and the inclusive government in general are going to deal with Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo and business tycoon Phillip Chiyangwa who were implicated in illegal land deals by a special council committee.
A police complaint filed by acting Harare mayor Charity Bango on Monday at Harare Central Police Station accused Chiyangwa and council officials Psychology Chiwanga and Cosmas Zvikaramba of fraud.
Bango told the Zimbabwe Independent that he would soon make a more detailed report implicating the rest of the people named in the special council committee report.
“I can’t give you more details of who else we are going to implicate until I file that report. I am currently working on it and will soon make the detailed report,” he said on Wednesday.
Assistant police commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena confirmed receiving the complaint saying: “A report for fraud which they said occurred on the 2nd of September 2009 in which they are alleging that two City of Harare officials, Psychology Chiwanga and Cosmas Zvikaramba with Phillip Chiyangwa committed fraud in the sale of Odar Farm. We are now investigating.”
Legal experts, however, pointed out that the police should not have waited for the council to make a complaint but should have summoned Chombo, Chiyangwa and all those officials named in the report as soon as the media reports hit the streets.
But now that the council has lodged a complaint, it will be interesting to see how those named will be dealt with by the police and how much pressure is brought to bear from the co-Ministers of Home Affairs, Giles Mutsekwa and Kembo Mohadi.
The two ministers were on Monday summoned by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai after Harare Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda and eight councillors were quizzed by the police over the report that implicated Chombo and Chiyangwa.
The councillors, who make up the committee that investigated the sale of land in Harare between 2004 and last year, were “arrested” last week after Chiyangwa made a report that they had criminally defamed him. They allegedly leaked the report to the media.
The eight councillors — committee chairperson Warship Dumba, Casper Takura, Herbert Gomba, Thomas Musharurwa Muzuva, Musa Macheza, Job Mbadzi, Paula Macharangwanda and Panganai Charumbira — made warned and cautioned statements last Thursday and were released.
Legal experts told the Zimbabwe Independent that this would be a test case to see if the police had reformed in accordance with the global political agreement, which states that the force should be impartial, non-partisan and should fully appreciate their roles and duties in a multi-party democratic system.
The experts said it will also be interesting to see at what speed the police are going to investigate allegations from a report by an MDC-dominated council accusing people linked to Zanu PF of serious irregularities.
Mutsekwa was quoted saying after meeting with Tsvangirai that: “As you are aware, there is a problem at Harare City Council where councillors have been summoned by the police after having rightfully done their job, instead of Chiyangwa. It is now up to us to act.”
What baffled many Zimbabweans was the reluctance by the police to investigate the allegations against Chombo and Chiyangwa after local and international media broke the story on the report by the council probe team.
Instead, the police summoned journalist Stanley Gama and visited the offices of the Standard where they interrogated two reporters, Feluna Nleya and Jennifer Dube, the day after the reports came out. They asked them to reveal their sources. The detectives also talked to the Standard Editor Nevanji Madanhire and the group Editor-in-Chief Vincent Kahiya.
Bvudzijena said on Monday they did not immediately after publication of the press reports institute an investigation because council had not filed a complaint with the police.
He said this when he was asked why they were not investigating Chombo and Chiyangwa. This was before council had made its report.
Bvudzijena said: “With Chiyangwa’s case, we had a complaint saying that the report was incorrect and defamatory hence the charge of criminal defamation. If councillors say they indeed did that, they should lodge a report that they were defrauded, that is if they sincerely believed it happened. We need a complainant and a witness before we can investigate.”
However, legal experts said it was mischievous for the police to say there has to be a complainant first before they can investigate a criminal act.
Constitutional lawyer Lovemore Madhuku pointed out that at law, the police are supposed to investigate a complaint or whatever information that would have come to its attention.
“Most crimes are investigated on the basis that it would have come to the attention of the police. Many crimes are investigated on the basis of media reports. It is very mischievous to suggest that they need a complainant,” he said.
In support, prominent lawyer, who is also chairperson of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) Tinoziva Bere said: “The police have a right and a duty to investigate suspected crimes even where no complainant has come forward or where there is an anonymous complaint.”
Law Society of Zimbabwe president Josphat Tshuma said the police should investigate whatever information they get on a crime that has been committed.
“They have a duty to investigate. It is their responsibility to ensure that there is law and order. Their actions are both pro-active and re-active.
“As a council, they have a duty to protect the assets of the council and if they believe that something has happened, they have a duty to investigate. It is interesting to see what happens now and how the investigations are going to be conducted,” he said.
Another prominent lawyer, George Chikumbirike, said normally when a criminal act has been committed, the police should investigate.
Madhuku said the fact that the police were reluctant to investigate those named in the report showed that the matter was political because it involved top people linked to Zanu PF.
“The matter is political. The police are still acting in the interest of Zanu PF. They will follow the interests of a certain political line,” he said.
Just last year, a damning report by the comptroller and auditor-general, Mildred Chiri, for the first quarter of the 2009 financial year exposed corruption through abuse of state resources by top government officials.
In the report, several ministers and their deputies and permanent secretaries took away vehicles from the ministries where they had been working before the formation of the inclusive government. Up to this date no police investigation has been instituted to look into the allegations raised in that report.