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Judges among corruption accused

HIGH Court Judges are among judicial officers who could be receiving bribes, according to a senior Anti-Corruption Commission official who has revealed that graft has pervaded virtually all levels of the justice delivery system.

Sukai Tongogara, the Anti-Corruption Commission investigations manager, said cases of bribery involving magistrates, prosecutors, clerks of court and lawyers in private practice continued to rise.
She said some of the graft involved judges presiding over cases involving relatives and friends without disclosing their interests.
She said this at a Joint Judicial-Legal profession colloquium held at Victoria Falls last week. The Law Society of Zimbabwe organised the colloquium.
“The Commission has received cases against magistrates, prosecutors, clerks of court, legal practitioners, officers of the Labour Court, traditional chiefs and judges,” said Tongogara in her presentation.
“Of these cases the highest number received were cases of bribery and corruption against magistrates, prosecutors and clerks of court.”
When asked by delegates the extent of corruption and bribery at the High Court, Tongogara said judges’ cases contributed 1% of bribery and corruption matters reported to the anti-corruption commission.

She said judges represented the lowest number of corruption cases being handled by her organisation, but some lawyers said it was worrying that senior officers such as judges could be involved in any form of graft.
“This was really surprising because people did not expect to get that from the judges due to the vigorous screening they are supposed to undergo before appointment,” a lawyer who attended the colloquium told the Independent this week. 
Tongogara cited interference in the independence of the judiciary as the biggest contributor to possible cases of corruption. Poor remuneration, lack of supervision, weak monitoring mechanisms, inadequate work facilities, greed, lack of integrity and unprofessionalism also contributed to the scourge, she said.
Some lawyers were fraudulently selling properties, conniving with prosecutors to solicit money to obtain judgments and conniving with clerks to remove documents from records, she said.
Senior Assistant Commissioner Benjamin Mhiripiri, the director of legal services in the police, admitted that cells at Matapi Police Station were inhabitable, and pledged to convince his boss Augustine Chihuri to close them down.
This was after lawyers questioned the continued use of detention cells that posed a danger to human life. Matapi Police Station in Mbare,  is notorious for its dehumanising conditions.
Mhiripiri’s admission came as a group of local women activists have taken steps to have the facility closed down. Lawyers for Women of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza) members detained at Matapi in April for protesting against poor energy supplies, have written to the co-Ministers of Home Affairs notifying them of their intention to apply to the Supreme Court for Matapi to be declared inhabitable. Mhiripiri admitted that many police officers had abandoned their public duties and were using their positions to coerce bribes as well as do private work using police uniforms and other resources.
“Regrettably some of our members abuse these wide powers to advance their own selfish interests. We have recently received correspondence from some magistrates complaining that some of our members are now specialising in debt collection, judging by certain cases brought before them,” he said.

Wongai Zhangazha

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