Saturday, 11 July 2020

NO MORE CATCH AND RELEASE, SAYS ED


The justice system should step up the fight against corruption and bring an end to the “catch-and-release syndrome”, while the arrest of “small and big fish” should become the new normal, President Mnangagwa has said.

He also called for thorough investigations on corruption cases to ensure successful prosecutions and fair justice to lawbreakers.

The President made the remarks in a televised address last night to launch the National Anti-Corruption Strategy, which coincided with the commemoration of  the Africa Anti-Corruption Day yesterday.

“Members of the criminal justice system and those in institutions tasked to fight corruption must improve on the investigation into, and prosecution of, corruption cases,” the President said.

“They must be above reproach and must ensure that all cases of corruption within their rank and file are thoroughly investigated, with corrupt officials punished.

“The culture of long, drawn-out prosecutions and the ‘catch and release syndrome’ must come to an end. The arrest and successful prosecution of corrupt ‘big and small fish’ alike, must be the new normal.”

The President emphasised that the Government was sincere in its fight against corruption as seen by new endeavours undertaken to fight graft.

“At the advent of the Second Republic, and upon my assumption of the Office of President, my Government prioritised the fight against corruption and declared zero tolerance to this vice. To this end, we continue evaluating progress in fighting corruption and have made several changes to legislation and adopted best practices,” he said.

The President’s remarks come at a time the Government is delivering on its promise to root out corrupt officials regardless of their standing.

Some Cabinet ministers and senior civil servants including former Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo, former Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Prisca Mupfumira, former Director of State Residences Douglas Tapfuma, former Energy and Power Development Minister Samuel Undenge and former Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo are either before the courts or have been convicted for various corruption-related crimes.

Dr Moyo, who has since been fired, was arrested last month for awarding a tender to Drax International for the supply of Covid-19 drugs and personal protective equipment without following due process.

Mupfumira was arrested last July on abuse of office charges related to US$95 million allegedly siphoned from the National Social Security Authority (NSSA). Samuel Undenge and Douglas Tapfuma, who were also arrested on corruption-related charges have been convicted and are already serving two and four-year sentences respectively.

ZACC was intensifying its lifestyle audits through an operation code-named “Wakazvitenga Sei?” which seeks to flush out corrupt elements in the public and private sectors. 

“Specifically, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission was reconstituted and capacitated to better deliver on its mandate as outlined in our Constitution.

“In addition, we established Special Anti-Corruption Courts, established a new Special Anti-Corruption Unit within my Office, enacted the Public Entities Corporate Governance Act and required Cabinet members to declare their assets.”

Fighting corruption, he said, was essential in the attainment of Vision 2030.

“As citizens, rest assured and be emboldened by the political will demonstrated by my Government in the fight against corruption. It is against this backdrop that I take the opportunity of this commemoration to launch the National Anti-Corruption Strategy for 2020-2024.

“This strategy is a roadmap in the fight against corruption in Zimbabwe as we accelerate our quest to achieve Vision 2030. The implementation of the strategy must be robust and responsive to changes and new realities that may emerge, and must build a tradition of integrity, honesty and hard work,” he said.

Corruption has permeated all sections of society, contrary to the notion that it only affected the public sector, said the President.

“Furthermore, I challenge the private sector, civil society, political parties, churches and other socio-economic groups to cultivate integrity and high ethical standards in the execution of their various functions. The perception that corruption only occurs in the public sector will only slow us down in fighting corruption in other sectors of our economy. As we go forward, the anti-corruption fight must be anchored at the community level, and must deal with both sides of corrupt practices, that is the ‘givers’ and the ‘receivers’.”

In her statement to commemorate Africa Anti-Corruption Day, ZACC chair Justice Loyce Matanda-Moyo said Zimbabwe subscribed to the African Union Aspiration for Agenda 2063, which speaks to a continent characterised by good governance, justice and the rule of law.

She said in line with this year’s theme, the judiciary should be more efficient in fighting corruption. This year’s theme is, “Fighting corruption through effective and efficient judicial systems.”

“It is my strong conviction that all our collaborative efforts should be invested in strengthening judicial systems to deal with corruption issues decisively,” said the ZACC chair.

“The judiciary is an essential stakeholder in the justice delivery value chain and the expectations on how corruption cases are handled within the African continent is quite high and requires coordinated efforts among law enforcement agencies and the judiciary.”

Justice Matanda-Moyo called on the judiciary to impose stiffer sentences against corruption.

“In line with our constitutional mandate, we shall continue to lobby for the strengthening of the judicial system to efficiently deal with corruption and hinder individuals from benefiting from proceeds of the scourge,” she said.

“As a Commission, we also kindly urge the judiciary to impose deterrent sentences to perpetrators of corruption and further ensure that effective and efficient systems are put in place to deal with corruption matters. 

“All critical stakeholders and the judiciary are urged to collectively work together towards a common purpose of improving the current and existing judicial systems in order to concretise the continent’s ‘political will’ and commitment towards a corrupt-free, citizen-driven, democratically governed Africa, as envisioned by Agenda 2063: The Africa Want.”

Africa was losing at least US$50 billion annually to corruption-related activities. The scourge was one of the biggest threats that Africa was facing.

“This explains why African countries adopted the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption. Its provisions have cascaded to all African countries so as to have unified and amplified efforts, as well as a common position in suffocating the breeders of corruption within the African continent.”

The African Anti-Corruption Day is commemorated on July 11 and was declared in 2018 to give impetus, recognition and prominence to the collaborative fight against corruption within the continent. Sunday Mail

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