Govt identifies staff for anti-graft courts

Rita Makarau

Magistrates and prosecutors to staff Zimbabwe’s anti-corruption courts have been identified, and chambers will be opened at Harare and Bulawayo magistrates’ courts soon. Though the officers’ identities are being kept under wraps to protect them from victimisation, it is understood the officers will receive specialised training in the coming days.

Trainers will be drawn from the Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Ministry, Judicial Service Commission and National Prosecuting Authority. JSC Secretary Justice Rita Makarau said, “We are in the process of setting up two courts at Harare and Bulawayo magistrates’ courts. All stakeholders have committed to ensuring the courts’ opening is achieved within Government’s 100-day rapid results initiative.

“All key stakeholders have also identified officers to be trained. Staff who will work at the courts has already been identified. Preparations for their training have started: the training framework, compilation of training material and identification of trainers have been completed.

“Each participating State agency is expected to have enough trained officers to rotate to avoid the same officers working at the courts for long periods (to ensure public confidence in the courts is not lost).”

Justice Makarau said the pilot project had two courts whose success will be a launchpad for national implementation. Secretary for Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mrs Virginia Mabhiza said: “What it means is priority is being given to corruption cases, and high-profile cases will be dealt with quickly. It will also interest the public to know that corruption is being dealt with. As a ministry, we welcome the development.”

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said the courts would have no sacred cows.

“Cases will be determined according to presented facts,” he said. “The courts’ main purpose is to weed out corruption by providing for a deterrent. It is fundamental to make it extremely difficult for one to be corrupt, and we want the general citizenry to be confident in our systems, knowing that we mean business.

“We are going down to the roots of corruption. No stone will be left unturned; even the so-called big fish who sometimes get away with corruption will be pursued. Further, these courts will ensure all corruption cases are dealt with expeditiously. There will be a united effort among the NPA, JSC, Attorney-General’s Office, Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission and police; and crack teams will be assembled where necessary.”

Zimbabwe Law Society president Mr Misheck Hogwe said the drive was “noble and shows Government is not paying lip-service to the fight against corruption”.

“It should be understood that corruption is one of the most complex crimes and needs a systematic approach. Such courts are just what the doctor ordered. It is not ideal to have such specialised courts when the available manpower lacks requisite skills to handle the crime at hand. So, specialised training is very important,” he said.

“The benefits will cut across the country’s socio-economic fabric. Some infrastructure projects, for instance, have failed to take off because of corruption as certain officials demanded kickbacks.

“Certain investors developed cold feet due to corruption, and there has also been a tendency to overvalue projects. One hopes such practices will be a thing of the past once these courts come on board.”

Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Kenya, Senegal, Uganda and Tanzania are among countries with specialised anti-corruption courts in Africa. The Uganda High Court has an Anti-Corruption Division with original jurisdiction over all corruption-related cases.

Research shows that the Division’s court-user meetings and joint trainings with prosecutors “have improved mutual understanding and the quality of prosecutions”.

The Indonesian Court for Corruption Crimes has been in force for over 10 years. – Herald