Government is not paying the lawyers and prosecutors who form President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s controversial crack anti-corruption unit, Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said at the weekend.

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Ziyambi told NewsDay on the sidelines of the burial of national heroine Thokozile Mathuthu that fired Prosecutor-General Ray Goba had indicated he was facing capacity issues, forcing Mnangagwa to set up the unit that commentators maintain is illegal.

Asked if Mnangagwa was running an illegal parallel prosecution authority in his office, Ziyambi was quick to defend the Zanu PF leader.

“We have one National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and we have within the office of the President a Special Anti-Corruption Unit that was set up, manned by experienced former prosecutors,” Ziyambi said.

“At the time, we had a Prosecutor-General [Goba] who had indicated that he was overwhelmed and there was argument that there was lethargy in prosecuting corruption cases, that we were not prosecuting ourselves and corruption, especially in high places.”

But opposition NCA leader and University of Zimbabwe constitutional law lecturer Lovemore Madhuku argued Mnangagwa must disband the unit because it was “illegal”.

“The unit is unconstitutional. That is not how a State is run. If they had a problem with the Prosecutor-General, they should just have removed him as they did with Goba, not to turn to parallel structures that rival established State institutions,” he said. “Better still, government must just provide enough resources to the NPA than create a quasi-State institution. They must disband it.”

Ziyambi, however, said the Mnangagwa crack unit, headed by experienced prosecutor Thabani Mpofu, augmented, rather than rivalled the NPA.

“They just help the police and other State organs with the completion of dockets and once these are completed, it is up to the NPA to issue a certificate of prosecution. The idea was to deal with issues of high-profile people being arrested, get bail and the next thing, the defence if applying for refusal of remand because dockets are not ready, the next thing we hear the matter is dead,” the Justice minister said.

“This unit does not have prosecutorial powers. It was a way of strengthening the NPA’s capacity to prosecute. There are clear roles that are there without usurping the powers of the NPA by the unit.”

Ziyambi also denied the unit’s formation was a no-confidence vote in the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, adding the unit was made up of volunteers.

“It is not and by the way, these prosecutors are volunteering. They are not being paid, but they have said they are patriotic Zimbabweans who want to help their country in the fight against corruption,” he said.

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