Mnangagwa nominates controversial prosecutor Michael Reza for ZACC job

Michael Reza
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HARARE – Michael Reza, the infamous former chief prosecutor who got dozens of opposition leaders locked up, is in line for a shock appointment as chairman of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), ZimLive can reveal.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa is reportedly consulting parliament’s Committee on Standing Rules and Orders about the suitability of Reza for the job. The second name sent to the committee is Fulton Mangwanya, currently the director general of the Zimbabwe National Park and Wildlife Authority.

If appointed, Reza would replace Loice Matanda-Moyo, who was made Prosecutor General in October last year.

Reza, who now works in the National Prosecuting Authority’s litigation department, pursued the political trials of opposition activists including Tendai Biti, Fadzayi Mahere, Joana Mamombe, Jacob Mafume, Cecilia Chimbiri, Makomborero Haruzivishe, Evan Mawarire, Job Sikhala, author Tsitsi Dangarembga, journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and the international rights lawyer Siphosami Malunga.

Reza’s appointment as head of ZACC would come as a surprise to many lawyers and colleagues who have told ZimLive that he is not fit for the job.

Many question what they say is his obvious political bias, with questions also persisting over his relationship with land baron Kenneth Raydon Sharpe, against whom corruption complaints have been made to ZACC.

Reza was accused of “bias” as he led a three-year prosecution of CCC co-president Biti for “assault” after the latter allegedly called Sharpe’s sister-in-law Tatiana Aleshina “stupid.”

In 2018, he prosecuted Biti again for allegedly prematurely announcing election results. When a magistrate granted an application for the live-streaming of the proceedings, Reza sent a text message to a colleague saying of magistrate Gloria Takundwa: “She is either very brave or very stupid or both.”

In 2019, Reza controversially dropped fraud charges against Sharpe and his business associates Michael John Van Blerk and Oleksandr Sherement after they borrowed US$1.5 million from a bank using City of Harare land as surety. The case was brought by the Special Anti-Corruption Unit (SACU), but the National Prosecuting Authority controversially took it over only for Reza to acquiesce to an application by defence lawyers to drop charges.

Embarrassingly for Reza, the trial magistrate refused to acquit the trio, but the then local government minister Ignatius Chombo – who shared an address with one of Sharpe’s businesses – railroaded the City of Harare to sign a deed of settlement with Sharpe’s Augur Investments, effectively granting the company and its directors immunity from prosecution.

ZACC is Zimbabwe’s lead anti-graft agency, but critics say it lacks independence as the commissioners are appointed by the president. – ZimLive