About 36 corruption cases have been brought before Zimbabwe’s courts so far this year, but there is concern that in addition to being half-baked, some of them are taking inordinately long to conclude, Chief Magistrate Mishrod Guvamombe said last week.
According to Mr Guvamombe, evidence of graft cases often comes in dribs and drabs, making it difficult to conclude them expeditiously.
“We would like a situation where these cases are finalised expeditiously, but we appear to be having problems with the National Prosecuting Authority who are not always ready with the cases so that they present the evidence at once and courts are able to finalise them quickly.
“Cases are taking too long to be ready for trial and the NPA has to do something about it,” he said.
Magistrates of anti-corruption courts, he said, had been carefully selected and were more than ready to finalise cases properly brought them.
“To make sure that there is no interference, it is the sole responsibility of the senior regional magistrate to allocate magistrates the cases. The cases are allocated as they come.
“When cases are allocated to magistrates, they are only told the date and time they will preside over them, but they are not told what case it is and who the accused is. The accused likewise has no knowledge of who will preside over their case. The prosecutors also do not know the name of the magistrate until they come before him or her.”
Of the 36 corruption cases, two have been finalised.
Only one conviction — of former Energy and Power Development Minister Samuel Undenge who was sentenced to two-and-a half years in prison for criminal abuse of office — has been made.
Most of the cases are from Harare.
On Friday, Finance and Economic Development Minister Prof Mthuli Ncube said the disproportionately low conviction rates were unsatisfactory.
“While eliminating corruption will not be an overnight affair, Government will … enfore a zero tolerance policy to corruption and act swiftly and decisively whenever corruption is exposed,” said Prof Ncube.
“Enforcement of the law on corruption, both in terms of investigation and prosecution, has been unsatisfactory, with disproportionately low convictions recorded.”
In March, the Judicial Service Commission established anti-corruption courts in Harare and Bulawayo on a pilot basis, with a plan to cascade them to all provinces countrywide. Eleven magistrates were designated to preside over the courts.
Further, two regional and four provincial courts were established in Harare, while one regional and two provincial courts were set up in Bulawayo. A corresponding number of magistrates preside over these courts.
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