Mr Speaker Sir, Lloyd Gumbo
President Mugabe raised an important point during his 93rd birthday interview with Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation TV where he indicated that some of the allegations of corruption were mere allegations with no grain of evidence.
People have the tendency of making sweeping statements when it comes to corruption and for that reason expect law enforcement agents to oblige and arrest someone just because somebody has alleged that they are corrupt.
Mr Speaker Sir, the reason law enforcement agents sometimes avoid rushing to arrest someone is because they know before a court of law, they are expected to present tangible evidence linking one to corruption.
Failure to do that always results in suspects walking away scot-free and a lashing of the prosecution by judges for a shoddy job.
Often-times, acquittal does not necessarily mean that one did not commit an offence but because there is insufficient evidence to link them to a crime.
This is why the laws of the country have established institutions to combat corruption, particularly the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission.
In short, according to the Constitution, the ZACC is charged with investigating and exposing corruption in the public and private sectors, to combat corruption, theft, misappropriation, abuse of power and other improper conduct in the public and private sectors, to receive and consider complaints from the public and to take such action in regard to the complaints as the Commission considers appropriate as well as to direct the Commissioner-General of Police to investigate cases of suspected corruption and to report to the Commission on the results of any such investigations.
Mr Speaker Sir, this is where the problem is.
Ideally, ZACC is supposed to be an independent Commission, which entails that its operations must not be dependent on any other office or institution.
But there are provisions in the laws that take away ZACC’s independence where the Commission ends up appearing or operating as an extension of the Zimbabwe Republic Police.
For instance, the Commission is not allowed to arrest anyone in the absence of police officers, which in essence means that neighbourhood watch officers have more powers to arrest than a whole independent commission.
Also, ZACC does not have its own holding cells in the event that it has arrested someone as the culprits are detained in police cells.
Further, serving security personnel are seconded to the ZACC, which raises questions of whether the decisions of those officers are those of their superiors back at their offices.
These officers are still subordinate to the leadership of their respective security arms, as such they are inclined to serve the interests of their superiors than the Commission.
They have every reason to notify their superiors if the same are under investigation from the Commission.
The security forces are human, as such they err just like anyone else and this is given credence by recent reports of corruption within the police force that resulted in a number of officers being redeployed or fired from service.
Mr Speaker Sir, while the Constitution says ZACC is an independent Commission, it cannot be regarded as one given that their salaries are paid through the Salary Service Bureau and treated the same as civil servants.
Surely, one cannot expect investigators from ZACC to be professional when dealing with issues of fraud and corruption when their salries are very low.
Corruption has a tendency of corrupting even the most upright ones, as such it will be important for Government to ensure that ZACC officers are well remunerated to avoid a situation where they end up indulging in corrupt activities.
The Commission must be empowered and well-resourced to ensure that it is able to tackle the bull of corruption by the horns.
At the moment, the majority of people feel that the Commission has not done enough to justify its existence but it needs to be empowered so that it can be judged against that.
As things stand, there is a recruitment freeze on most Government institutions including independent commissions due to the economic challenges facing the country.
As a result, ZACC is centralised in Harare only because resources have not been availed so that it can decentralise to other provinces.
Surely, one cannot expect ZACC to combat corruption in Chiredzi, Lupane or Plumtree from Harare.
The anti-graft body needs resources to allowit to fight the scourge of corruption.
Mr Speaker Sir, the police through the CID Serious Frauds, are the other institutions responsible for combating corruption.
As such, the police would not want their competitors, in this case, ZACC, to bask in the glory of being an effective institution of combating corruption at their expense.
Whether we like it or not, generally there would be conflict and competition between ZACC and the police in combating corruption so expecting the police to willingly give a helping hand to the Commission in fighting corruption is expecting too much.
Please take note, this does not mean the police would not want to fight corruption but the element of competition is likely to affect the Commission’s zeal to fight corruption.
If Zimbabwe is determined to combat corruption, it should allow ZACC to operate independently of other institutions such as the police.