THE Zimbabwe Anti-corruption Commission (Zacc), for a long time accused of being a toothless bulldog, now finds itself dramatically embroiled in web conspiracy theories and controversy after its daring bid to raid the offices of Indigenisation minister Saviour Kasukuwere, Mines minister Obert Mpofu and Transport minister Nicholas Goche was thwarted last week amid accusations and counter-accusations of corruption.
Zacc’s attempts to swoop on and search the ministers’ offices hit a brick wall after police blocked investigators from accessing the premises.
The body had initially obtained a search warrant before the High Court stymied it. The unfolding drama has sent shockwaves across a country in which corruption is endemic, with Zimbabwe ranked joint 163rd out of 176 countries in the 2012 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, alongside Equatorial Guinea.
Zimbabwe Independent reporters Owen Gagare and Wongai Zhangazha this week interviewed Zacc spokesperson Commissioner Goodwill Shana about the going-on saga, including allegations the commission is being used to settle political scores by hidden hands after receiving inappropriate funding and gifts, as well as the fierce backlash against its besieged corruption-busting staffers. Find below the excerpts:
Q: There are allegations Zacc is working with senior MDC-T leaders, particularly from the Prime Minister’s office, and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) officials to crack down on ministers and that the arrest of staffers in the premier’s office is related to the raids you wanted to carry out. What is your response?
A: Allegations of a partisan approach have been made against the commission before. It’s a very sad state of affairs because of the current dynamics in the nation and perhaps also because we are in a period where everything is given a political spin. Even the appointment of the commission is alleged to have been an agreement between the political parties. Those are speculations and I cannot speak on speculation.
I do not know of a party political agenda we have because all the investigations that are carried out are sanctioned and commissioned by the full commission and if there are any partisan commissioners then it must mean there are other people from other parties who also concur with investigations that are going on.
All investigations are done after the full commission has been briefed and agreed. The issues of partisanship seem to appear now. Why now? Why particularly this investigation? Why not others?
Q: Which particular investigation are you referring to?
A: The so-called Nieebgate for instance; why not before? Why not in other circumstances? Why not with the procurement board, for instance, or Zou (Zimbabwe Open University) or others? Why this particular one? We categorically refute that (we are politically driven and manipulated).
This investigation has just made us realise corruption is much more embedded; that the cartels, cabals of corruption are much more widespread, much stronger than we probably envisaged. But we are not deterred; we are not dented in any way, and therefore we are carrying on. For instance, people said we were down and out with regards to CDF (Constituency Development Fund) investigation but we are still carrying on. Just because one particular case does not go through does not mean that there are no other cases we are looking at.
Q: Are you giving up on the indigenisation investigation? If not, how are you going to move forward?
A: Of course not. I can’t tell you how we are moving forward. You will see as we move on. We are not cowed; we are not retreating. Corruption, when it is embedded, strikes back and it happens everywhere in the world. Where there are cartels or cabals, especially when they feel cornered and at risk, they don’t go down quietly, they fight back.
We have done nothing wrong. If we want to search a place because we are mandated to do so and people vigorously resist, you begin to wonder why because our job is not to arrest or prosecute but to investigate and if there is a case, then we forward it to prosecuting authorities.
If we search a place and people open their files we may not find anything wrong so we wonder then why this particular investigation is being vigorously resisted. That is not to say we have the right to invade any place. We usually secure search warrants but in this particular case, we sought search warrants everywhere. We also asked the police and they refused to help. We went through the whole hierarchy of the police but they did not cooperate with us.
Q: What were the reasons given for this lack of cooperation?
A: Some of them said their hands were tied. We asked (for the search warrant) from a magistrate and we were denied. Two weeks ago the same magistrate who denied us a search warrant gave us one, so one wonders what happened in between.
We are cognisant of the fact that we need to abide by the law with regard to search warrants and so on. The point is we exhausted all options, so what happens if you have exhausted all means but you believe that an investigation has to take place? You take it as far as you can. For us, the High Court was the furthest we could go.
Q: There are allegations you received funding from RBZ governor Gideon Gono and this is now influencing your work. What is your comment?
A: That’s a preposterous, far-fetched conspiracy theory. We have no contact with Gono. We did not receive funding from anybody for that matter and sometimes even from Treasury. We are actually starved of funding. It will be interesting if they can prove that Gono is actually giving us money. We know that they (RBZ) entered into a written agreement with the previous commission for quasi-fiscal assistance which was clearly stipulated and limited.
That programme ended with quasi-fiscal activities. We are actually starved of finances and are operating on a shoe-string budget.
Q: How about gifts? Did you get any gifts from Gono?
A: They must prove it. I think it would be nice for them to prove that we are receiving gifts and other incentives. It would be nice for them to prove exactly how we are being motivated to do our investigations. The question to beg is why Gono would choose the Anti-Corruption Commission which has very limited powers? Wouldn’t Gono, if he was doing that, choose to work with somebody who has powers to arrest or prosecute instead of someone who just investigates?
Q: Apart from financial and capacity constraints, what other challenges are you facing?
A: I think one problem is our inability to directly access the highest office (President’s Office) because going through a variety of intermediaries might mean delays and even compromise.
Q: Have you tried to access the highest office directly?
A: We have tried to engage the structures to try and ensure that our voice and concerns are heard. We are still waiting (for feedback).
Row erupts over controversial Zacc funding
A ROW has erupted over the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s controversial role in funding the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) amid accusations this was compromising the anti-graft body’s mandate while putting it under the control of powerful individuals.
The allegations stem from a Memorandum of Understanding entered between the RBZ and the commission on capacity enhancement and skills retention in October 2006. Under the MoU, the RBZ was supposed to provide US$5,5 million for a skills retention, housing scheme, 56 vehicles and a separate allocation of US$150 000 for office support.
Responding to questions over the issue, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono said this week the MoU signed between the central bank and Zacc was part of intervention measures the bank used in supporting various government institutions at the height of quasi-fiscal operations before the adoption of multi-currencies four years ago.
Gono’s opponents say Zacc’s funding by RBZ compromised the body and is a factor in the ongoing attempts to probe three Zanu PF ministers, Saviour Kasukuwere (Indigenisation), Obert Mpofu (Mines) and Nicholas Goche (Transport).
However, Gono said he did not only support Zacc but also “government ministries, departments, parastatals, local authorities, security , defence, prisons services and law-enforcement arms of the state, parliament, judiciary, the presidency and private sector companies”.
“It is common cause that as a country, we faced extraordinary circumstances which demanded extraordinary interventions during the hyper-inflationary years of our existence as Zimbabweans and history will record that the RBZ and myself as governor were at the forefront of trying to serve this country and its people in whatever best ways we could,” Gono said.
Gono’s adversaries accuse him of working with the Zacc commissioners who are compromised by his funding to target his opponents. But he said the RBZ had letters of authorisation from the parent ministries and the presidency in all the interventions it made.
“The MoU was a very well and carefully crafted document which set out our respective parameters of operation and independence,” he said. “The parties to the MoU are defined clearly, objectives spelt out nicely, components of support properly spelt out and Section 6 dealt with the independence of the two organisations in the discharge of our respective mandates.”
Zacc commissioner Goodwill Shana told journalists this week there were other state or government institutions that also got RBZ funding. “I’m aware that judges, ministries, and the police received financial support from Gono and to insinuate that Zaac is corrupt based on this, one would have to label all government institutions who benefitted as corrupt,” Shana said. “It is a desperate attempt to cast aspersions on the integrity of the commission.”
The RBZ says it gave 1 356 cars valued at USUS$43 377 500 to government ministries, commissions and state-owned organisations. While the anti-corruption commission received 49 cars – not 56 as initially agreed – the ministry of information was given 114, some of which went to Zimpapers and the state-broadcaster ZBC, ministries of energy 33, agriculture 35, justice, legal and parliamentary affairs 165, transport 279, health 293 and youth five.