- Last Updated on 27 March 2013
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Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have come out in strong support of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) arguing that the anti-corruption body is being unjustly attacked for attempting to carry out its lawful mandate.
ZACC came under fire after it launched investigations into alleged corrupt operations of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), the National Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Board (NIEEB) and the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) - entities which fall under the jurisdiction of three Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) Ministers.
On 11 March 2013, ZACC obtained search warrants from the High Court to search and seize certain documents from the offices of the three relevant Government Ministers €” Mines and Mining Development Minister Obert Mpofu, Youth Development, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere and Transport, Communications and Infrastructure Development Minister Nicholas Goche, marking the beginning of what would turn out to be a relentless month-long assault on the Anti-Graft body instead..
Less than 24 hours later on 12 March 2013, NIEEB and the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation sought and secured an interdict through an urgent chamber application that saw Judge President George Chiweshe ruling in their favour. For convenience, the two matters were jointly heard therefore Justice Chiweshe passed one ruling, which had a bearing on both matters effectively barring ZACC from executing the search warrant issued by the High Court the previous day.
The High Court order issued by Judge President Chiweshe to stop the search gave the state-controlled Herald newspaper fodder to launch a series of attacks on ZACC and its staffers with unflattering articles, editorial comments and court stories that demonize the organization and those who work for it.
The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC)'s spokesperson, Thabani Nyoni condemned the vilification of ZACC especially by the state media, pointing out that it was:
" €¦sad to note that the state media continues to conduct its business, in a manner that clearly suggests that it is being manipulated and used for Partisan agendas by some elements if not the entirety of ZANU PF. Rather than raising questions on the integrity of ZACC, the state media's actions have shone a light and brought into question the integrity of the public broadcaster and state media €.
Since 15 March 2013, the state-controlled Herald newspaper has published 6 articles, and 1 editorial comment casting aspersions on ZACC, its staff members and commissioners. In addition to ZACC, the judge who granted it the search warrant, Justice Charles Hungwe has been the subject of 3 recent unflattering stories that have attacked his professionalism and questioned his integrity. The media oriented smear campaign has been conducted in a manner reminiscent of how fair-minded judges were hounded off the bench in the early 2000s, for passing judgments not seen as supportive of government and the land invasions.
The Herald issues of 15 March, 19 March, 22 March, 23 March, 26 March and 27 March all carried stories that heavily criticized ZACC and its staffers in a shoddy display of journalistic bias and without the pretense of rendering a fair or objective account of the facts.
Remarking on the brutal media attack that has been launched against ZACC and that has also sucked in Judge Justice Hungwe, the chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), Professor Lovemore Madhuku said that Justice Hungwe was being pilloried for daring to act independently whilst ZACC was being targeted because it actually sought to carry out its mandate.
"This attack on ZACC is not an isolated incident because any organization that wants to advance their work in a proper and competent manner will be targeted. The intent of the ZANU PF component of Government is to have institutions that exist in name only but do not carry out their mandate €, said Madhuku who added,
"What Justice Hungwe did is perfectly acceptable, he conducted himself in a professional way and that is why he is being attacked. This kind of targeting will make some other judges operate in fear of reprisals because they will take this into account when performing their duties €.
Meanwhile, Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ), a local chapter of the leading global Corruption watchdog, last week weighed in to voice concern over the recent happenings as chronicled in the media reports. In a statement, the TIZ said:
"The ZRP should not interfere with ZACC's mandate of fighting corruption as recommended in the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and articulated in section 108 A of the Constitution of Zimbabwe €.
TIZ said that there was need for more attention to be paid by the current Coalition government and future government on guaranteeing the independence of institutions like ZACC and releasing them from political subservience so that they are not used as pawns for political vendettas.
Whilst CiZC's spokesperson, Nyoni, asserted that the siege on ZACC bears testimony to the long established view that some sections of the government of Zimbabwe and ZANU-PF have a lot to hide. Nyoni added that:
"ZACC is a constitutional commission, which should be allowed to carry out its mandate without fear or favor. This vilification of the ZACC, shows that there maybe more to the issue than meets the eye, and that those sponsoring this relentless attack, have got more than just skeletons in their cupboards. We challenge the police, relevant Ministers and their Ministries to come clean, and the State media, to for a change, uphold professional journalism steeped in law and media ethics.. €