Harare (New Ziana) – The judiciary is treating corruption matters seriously contrary to the popular but false narrative that the courts were undermining the fight against graft through, among other things, failing to quickly prosecute cases brought before it.
Chief Justice Luke Malaba said the judiciary was actively dealing with corruption, in line with the Second Republic’s thrust to eradicate the vice.
Currently, he said, there were 147 corruption related cases pending in the courts, and of these, 89 were either in progress or had been finalised, while 16 had trial dates.
“The statistics given above do not indicate a country that is not taking the fight against corruption seriously. They show that arresting agents and prosecution agencies are busy at work. They also show that the courts are dealing with these cases actively when they are brought before them,” he said during the opening of the 2023 legal year.
“These remarks are made because the impression sought to be created is that there is no activity in courts in respect of corruption cases. The cynical suggestion has been that courts are involved in a conspiracy arrangement with the other state agents in the criminal justice system to release persons accused of corruption in what is called a “catch and release” phenomenon.
“When a person has been arrested, he or she is entitled to bail as of right unless there are compelling reasons not to grant bail. When a person accused of a crime is released on bail, this is a legal and constitutionally provided for process, not to be derogatively dismissed as a “catch and release” procedure.”
Malaba said when a trial takes place; it was a constitutional imperative that the suspect was given a fair
trial and that two outcomes were expected either a conviction or an acquittal.
“A person who has gone through the criminal proceedings and is released on acquittal cannot be dismissed as a “catch and release” case. The Constitution guarantees a fair criminal justice system. It does not guarantee a criminal justice system in which everyone arrested must be convicted even where there is no evidence. There cannot be public confidence in such a system. The so-called “catch and release” narrative ascribed to the courts has no legal and factual basis,” he said.
Malaba urged other institutions in the criminal justice system to ensure proper investigations were done so that courts have an easier task when matters are handed over to them.
“Admittedly, institutions in the criminal justice system need to ensure that cases of corruption are properly investigated prosecuted and adjudicated upon and speedily finalised in the courts.”
“The constitutional obligation is that all stakeholders in the justice delivery system must ensure that disputes brought for hearing and determination by the courts are resolved expeditiously. Tardiness and delays in the handling of cases are incidents that are contrary to the efficiency and effectiveness demanded of a justice delivery system.”
The government’s anti-corruption crusade has claimed the scalps of several senior officials, with some including former Energy and Power Development Minister Samuel Undenge serving jail time for corruptly awarding a public relations contract to a firm for the Zimbabwe Power Company, without going to tender.
Another high profile corruption cases which are still before the courts include that of axed Environment and Tourism Minister Prisca Mupfumira who is being tried for allegedly defrauding the National Social Security Authority of US$85 million.