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Zacc won’t be used to settle personal scores

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s lethargic approach in the fight against corruption has raised the spectre of distrust towards his administration’s will to fight graft. The appointment of Loice Matanda-Moyo as the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) chairperson in May last year was widely expected to intensify the fight against corruption, but the “catch and release” approach has frustrated Matanda-Moyo’s drive against corruption. With Zimbabwe losing close to US$2 billion annually to corruption, according to Transparency Zimbabwe International (TIZ), government needs to make the fight against corruption a priority.

Political reporter Nyasha Chingono (NC) this week spoke to Matanda-Moyo (LMM, pictured) about Zacc’s against corruption. Below are the excerpts of the interview:

NC: According to the TIZ, Zimbabwe is losing close to US$2 billion annually to corruption. Which sectors of the economy are culpable for financial leakages?
LMM: According to the Financial Intelligence Unit, Zimbabwe is losing an estimated US$1,8 billion annually in illicit corrupt financial dealings such as money laundering, embezzlement, fraud, extortion, etc. But in the absence of empirical research findings, we are not in a position to comment or label certain sectors of the economy to be culpable for the financial leakages.

As a commission, we are in the process of undertaking sector-specific surveys. It is our hope that by end of the year we would have covered at least four areas of public interest. It is at that stage when we will be qualified to respond objectively knowing which sectors are the key perpetrators. It is true however that corruption has had a severe social and economic impact.

NC: Illicit financial flows have been a feature for many years. What can be done to stop the practice?

LMM: Curbing illicit financial flows is everyone’s responsibility. Basically, there is urgent need to ensure that the systems are watertight so that loopholes are plugged at all cost. Enforcement and compliance with proper procedures is also an imperative in order to stop illicit financial flows. In addition, those found on the wrong side of the law should be prosecuted and in turn receive deterrent sentences so that it sends a strong message to would-be perpetrators.
NC: Recently you expressed frustration over the State’s failure to deal with corruption. Do you think there is political will to deal with graft in the current dispensation?

LMM: There is a high level of political will and commitment to deal with corruption in Zimbabwe. This is evidenced by several anti-corruption initiatives by the current dispensation.

Firstly, Zacc was granted powers of arrest and we continue to be capacitated in order to effectively execute our mandate. Other criminal justice system players are also being capacitated. The opening up of the anti-corruption courts is another good example of political will.

We are finalising a National Anti-Corruption Strategy in order to promote national consensus on the fight against corruption. Again this is a demonstration of political will.

NC: Since your appointment, you have made strides towards fighting corruption where high-profile arrests have been made in the process. The country has, however, not seen any convictions. What do you think is stalling prosecution?

LMM: I cannot authoritatively comment or express my opinions on convictions because that is the mandate of the National Prosecution Authority (NPA). As Zacc, we expose and investigate cases of corruption and refer them for prosecution as provided by the Constitution of Zimbabwe. We are, however, jointly working together with the police, NPA and Judicial Services Commission to ensure an increase in the rate of convictions.

NC: Can you kindly explain Zacc’s arresting powers? How will Zacc administer its mandate in case of high-profile personalities in the executive or judiciary?
LMM: The Zacc powers of arrest are provided for by the Statutory Instrument 143 of 2019. Criminal Procedure and Evidence (Designation of Peace Officers) (Amendment) Notice 2019 (No 3). This implies that Zacc officers are now peace officers for all purposes.

In executing our mandate, there are no sacred cows. The constitution provides that no citizen is above the law. The law applies uniformly to the so-called high-profile personalities regardless of status in society. However, in rolling out its mandate, Zacc is not guided by the perception of the high-profile personalities whether in the executive or judiciary.

NC: Corruption has been named as the number one enemy of foreign investment and the fight against corruption form a crucial part of the much-needed economic reforms. Do you think Zacc has the necessary powers to fight corruption?

LMM: Yes, Zacc has the necessary powers to fight corruption. As already been alluded to, Zacc’s powers are derived from the Constitution of Zimbabwe, Amendment No 20. In addition, Zacc’s statutory powers are derived from the Anti-Corruption Commission Act (Chapter 9:22). In my earnest view, in terms of powers, there is sufficient evidence within our legal framework to prove that Zacc has the necessary powers to combat corruption.

NC: The Auditor-General (AG) Mildred Chiri has consistently released reports that implicate government officials, exposing government rot in parastatals. Are you planning to act on the recommendations made by the AG that are gathering dust?

LMM: The commission has since signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Office of the Auditor-General. This in my view, is a positive development that will see Zacc swiftly responding and taking action on recommendations made by the AG. Additionally, the MoU will also lead to increased collaboration between Zacc and AG’s Office. The Nssa corruption case emanated from the AG’s report. There are many other suspected cases of corruption we have investigated that have arisen from the AG’s reports.

NC: The Land Commission has not released findings of the land audit. What is Zacc doing to expedite the release of the audit?

LMM: The release of the findings of the land audit in my view is done in line with the laws that govern the Land Commission’s mandate. We are seized with that report and have already held discussions with the ZRP to ensure we properly coordinate the investigations.

NC: There have been accusations in the past that Zacc commissioners were pursuing political factional agendas. Can you assure us that Zacc will fight corruption without fear or favour?

LMM: I would like to assure all citizens that Zacc shall fight corruption without any prejudice, fear or favour. I am glad you have put the accusations into proper context, by saying “in the past”. During my tenure of office, that will never happen.

NC: How professional are Zacc investigators? Who is part of this critical board of investigators?

LMM: Our Zacc investigators are very professional and competent too. Within the critical board of investigators are men and women of high integrity.

Additionally, their work speaks for itself. At the moment, of the 770 cases under investigations, our Zacc investigators are dealing with 73 high-profile cases diligently. Of course, like in any organisation, continuous capacity development is needed in order for our staff to competently unpack complex corruption cases.

NC: There is a general perception that Zacc is used to settle personal scores. How is your team looking to maintain impartiality?

LMM: Like you have rightly indicated that this is a general perception. It becomes very difficult to comment on perceptions. Personally, I value and respect people’s perceptions, but would want to categorically stress that the mandate of Zacc is very clear: to combat corruption, abuse of power, misappropriation and other improper conduct in both the public and private sector.

In our view and efforts to combat corruption, we shall be guided by the law. To this end, issues of settling personal scores are completely outside our organisational professional conduct.

In ensuring impartiality, our efforts have been put in place to ensure that our code of conduct is strengthened and does not allow situations where individuals abuse office for personal gains.

NC: Does Zacc have the necessary budgetary support to deal with corruption?

LMM: Zacc acknowledges the support we are receiving from government. You will agree with me that we are all operating under a hyper-inflationary environment which makes it difficult to plan ahead since you may need to rely on “top up budgets” regularly.

As you might be aware, in economics, there is a saying that “much is better”. Basing on what we requested from Treasury and what we were allocated, I can say we received the necessary budgetary support from government. We are engaging development partners to provide additional support.

We are also advocating for the retention of a certain percentage of assets recovered in order to further financially capacitate the commission.

NC: Zacc officials have been driven by party politics in the past. How has your experience been since assuming office?

LMM: Our experience since assuming office is that, we have not seen or heard or experienced any incidences within Zacc where officials have been driven by party politics. We take note that this has been previously happening, as you have indicated.

I do promise that you shall witness a considerable and remarkable shift from this current commission in the fight against corruption.

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