The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) has been in office for the past 12 months, but there is little on the ground to show that the body is effectively discharging its mandate as corruption continues to take root in the country.
Complaints have been made by a cross-section of society that Zacc suffered a still-birth. The Standard Political Editor, Patrice Makova (PM), had a wide-ranging interview with Zacc chairperson, Denford Chirindo (DC), on operations of the commission, including allegations that it is powerless, hamstrung by political interference and has all but ignored cases implicating influential people in fraud and corruption, while concentrating on small cases.
PM: What is the mandate of Zacc?
DC: The mandate of Zacc is to combat corruption, theft, abuse of power, misappropriation and other improprieties in Zimbabwe, through public education, prevention and through investigations leading to prosecution.
PM: Zacc is accused of being a toothless bulldog, which has failed to deliver on that mandate you have just mentioned. What is your response?
DC: The public’s expectations from the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission are very high. I am happy that the public knows that corruption is a crime against social justice. It hurts everybody without discrimination and irrespective of one’s status or position in society. The fight against corruption is therefore not a preserve of Zacc alone, but rather requires a multi-disciplinary approach. it is the responsibility of every Zimbabwean to work together with honesty, sincerity, dedication and unquestionable loyalty in the battle to fight, prevent corrupt practices and educate the public on the dangerous effects of corruption.
The public is also aware of the dire need to capacitate Zacc to enable it to discharge its mandate in a more visible way. The commission is happy that the co-ministers of Home Affairs [Kembo Mohadi and Theresa Makone] are very supportive and are doing their best to capacitate the commission. I am confident that once their efforts to capacitate the commission come to fruition, the public will see the commission discharging its mandate in a more visible way. The commission is up to its job in the prevailing circumstances.
PM: But can you tell us some of the cases which you can confidently say you have successfully handled?
DC: You are asking me a very pre-emptive question. You know that Zacc reports to Parliament through the co-ministers. I appeal for your patience until the co-ministers table our annual report in Parliament.
PM: And you are satisfied that you are doing a good job?
DC: I am satisfied that the commission is doing its best under the prevailing resource challenges.
PM: What of the perception that you are only targeting the small fish, leaving out powerful people including Cabinet ministers who have been implicated in corruption and fraud?
DC: In rolling out its mandate, Zacc is not guided by the perception of big fish or small fish. We go after grand corruption and grand corruption is not the preserve of a specific class of people in society. The seriousness of a corruption case is not determined by a big name.
PM: Some months ago you confirmed to The Standard that Zacc is investigating several prominent people, among them, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, on allegations of double-dipping from RBZ and Treasury when he bought his Highlands mansion. You also confirmed to having received dossiers implicating Local Government minister, Ignatious Chombo, in fraudulent land deals in Harare, while RBZ Governor, Gideon Gono, was accused of corruption, theft and fraud by his former advisor, Munyaradzi Kereke. What happened to the investigations and why is it taking ages to conclude these cases?
DC: Zacc needs to distinguish itself in carrying out its mandate. What we don’t want is people getting arrested on the basis of evidence which is not clear and on the basis of facts which have not been thoroughly investigated. Zacc investigates allegations of corruption thoroughly before arresting individuals. This is to ensure that by the time a case of corruption has been made and is taken to court, there is no doubt as to the law violated, the crime committed and the identity of the individual alleged to have committed the crime.
Rushing to build unsubstantiated cases does not do us any good at all. If anything, it harms our integrity, professionalism, credibility and reputation.
Complex investigations necessarily take a bit of time and need not be rushed. Experience in crime intelligence has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that in handling complex investigations, thoroughness in investigations takes precedence over speed on a balance of equities and convenience.
PM: What other high-profile cases are you handling?
DC: It is very un-investigative to disclose current investigations as it is self-defeating and akin to shooting oneself in the head.
PM: But are you able to truly operate independently with no interference from government, including your parent ministry, Home Affairs?
DC: Our operations are our complete exclusive domain. We are totally independent in carrying out our mandate. For clarity, let me reiterate that no one tells the Commission what to investigate, who to investigate, who not to investigate or how to investigate and in this, we are indeed operationally independent.
PM: What happened to the cases of MPs who you arrested for abusing the Constituency Development Fund?
DC: You will recall that our last word was that none of the suspect
MPs was removed from the hook. The ministry of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs have not come back to the commission with a comprehensive and complete list of suspect MPs.
PM: The MDC-T recently wrote to Zacc requesting you to investigate councillors who the party fired, accusing them of being corrupt. Have you done something on this?
DC: Again, we don’t disclose current investigations for the simple reason that it is un-investigative and fatally detrimental to our investigations.
PM: What other challenges are you facing and as a commission, are you optimistic that you will effectively deal with corruption in the country?
DC: Funding of the Zacc is a major challenge and I am more than optimistic that with the necessary resources, delivery on our mandate is a child’s play as the commission will be able to effectively deal with all corruption cases. Lest people forget, Zacc’s vision is a corruption-free Zimbabwe.
‘Zacc working like well-oiled machine’
PM: There are reports that there is serious infighting within Zacc, with commissioners divided along partisan lines. This has resulted in failure to investigate a number of prominent cases. Why are the commissioners at each other’s throats?
DC: That’s news to me. I am hearing it from you Patrice. We are working very well, like a well-oiled machine. Our relations are cordial and professional.
PM: And there are also reports that you are facing serious financial problems, virtually crippling your operations. How far true is this?
DC: Like I said, we are like any other government institution in the country. We also face resource challenges. But our co-ministers are doing something to capacitate the commission to enable it to discharge its mandate in a more visible manner.
PM: How is your working relationship with the Attorney-General and the police?
DC: Very cordial and professional to the level expected of intelligence-led policing law enforcement agencies. These are the key stakeholders in the discharge of our mandate.