The national anti-corruption fight is game on. That is the strong feeling of the director and chairman of the Special Anti-Corruption Unit in the President’s Office (Sacu) Mr Tabani Mpofu. Over the past months — close to 24, in fact — there has been a lot of high-profile cases that have been prosecuted against corruption, but the conviction rate has been low. Quite miserably.
In his interview with the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) ahead of Independence Day last week, President Mnangagwa said the anti-corruption crusade — one of his key reckoning points — was beset by corruption as the system designed to deal with the scourge, from arrests to the courts, was compromised.
The Head of State and Government said he would have to be a little more patient.
And in an exclusive interview with The Herald yesterday, Mr Mpofu admitted that the fight was complicated, but sounded optimistic that the cancer would be defeated.
Mr Mpofu also spoke about the capacity of the prosecution authority, the legality of Sacu; how Sacu related to the Prosecutor-General’s Office and how Sacu would have the final word on corruption.
There is also the uncomfortable question of whether there is bad blood between the prosecution and Judiciary, with recent reports of judges and magistrates sounding off scathing opinions about the nature and quality of prosecutions.
All these questions have led to the well-placed skepticism about the current fight against graft.
“The President was 100 percent correct in saying that corruption is deep-rooted in all our spheres of activity. It is not just Government, but beyond as well. But coming back to what the President has said, in our experience, we have seen that those that are corrupt are represented in every step of the justice system and that getting matters even to commence as trial is a matter that involves many corruption hurdles. Yes, the President was correct that fighting corruption is not a matter that can be swatted away easily.”
He explained that in the Second Republic, unlike in the previous era where there were no arrests, there had been a new focus in the arrest and prosecution of high-profile figures, bettering the record of arrests without or with delayed trials.
However, since 2017 the so-called high-profile figures began to be arrested and caused to appear in the courts, with the appointment of the Special Anti-Corruption Unit in June last year.
“Our immediate task was to ensure that those pending matters — that had been pending for seven or eight months would be allocated trial dates,” he said.
That included the case of businessman Mr Wicknell Chivayo, he said. Mr Chivayo was recently cleared of fraud over a solar tender he entered with the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC).
In the Chivayo case, and in others, Mr Mpofu said the defence made applications that were meant to curtail and delay the cases.
Mr Mpofu said his unit worked with the Prosecutor-General’s Office, and was equally equipped with expertise, challenging widely-held notions that the anti-corruption crusade lacked skills.
“Let me correct misconceptions that are in the public domain. We prosecute under the authority of the PG and it is his sole authority that we are able to prosecute in court. Now, in terms of capacity, we do not act in isolation . . . we operate under the PG office and I will state it now that the PG’s office, and us, combined have the capacity to handle any case of any nature that is brought and can be and will be brought before our courts; so this is not an issue of capacity.”
He decried that, as “persons of means” corruption-accused persons were taking a number of steps to stop their prosecutions — provided in the Constitution — including using exceptions, making the cases some kind of football match. He said, the State would not circumvent the processes.
“In terms of there been no convictions — as you have correctly observed — it is because we are undergoing processes that cannot be circumvented and going through trials.”
Yet, he said, the “majority” of cases that the unit is currently seized with are now ready for trials.
“We are happy with the progress we have made in that the majority, the vast majority of the cases that we have dealt with, have actually reached a stage the that we, the State, are ready to commence prosecuting them and we have approached the courts for their trials.
“With time, we will complete them and we will get convictions, I’m sure.”