By Farayi Machamire
When President Emmerson Mnangagwa came into office, he promised to introduce a new culture of accountability, transparency, a new beginning of sorts, which most christened “the new dispensation”.
There appeared to be a flicker of hope, even among Mnangagwa’s detractors, when the new dispensation cast its dragnet far and wide to include Zanu PF bigwigs, the private sector and local authorities accused of prejudicing government of huge sums of money.
But storm clouds are gathering over Zimbabwe’s justice delivery system, with those arrested in the name of ending corruption still waiting to be given trial dates, months after their arrest.
Indeed, delays in our justice system remain routine.
Chief among those who have been remanded and further remanded is former Cabinet minister Ignatius Chombo, who was arrested in December.
Chombo is facing a slew of corruption charges.
He has been in and out of court for routine updates on the progress of his cases.
Chombo has appeared together with ex-Zanu PF youth leader Kudzanai Chipanga and Munyaradzi Hamandishe, whom he is jointly charged with on a criminal nuisance charge after they were arrested for wearing the party’s regalia.
In their last routine remand hearing earlier this month, prosecutor Sebastian Mutizirwa advised the court that dockets were now at the Prosecutor-General’s office for further management before accused persons are indicted for trial.
Chombo is also being charged with criminal abuse of office, contravening the Prevention of Corruption Act and fraud with the State saying his alleged activities prejudiced it of $3,6 million.
In one of the cases, it is being alleged that on October 1, 2005 Chombo hatched a plan to defraud the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe under “Other Crops and Livestock Support Facility” provided by the central bank.
Another bigwig also awaiting a trial date is University of Zimbabwe vice-chancellor Levi Nyagura, who is accused of fraudulently awarding former first lady Grace Mugabe a Doctor of Philosophy Degree.
After weeks of back and forth appearances at the Harare magistrates’ court, he was earlier this month remanded to April 30 pending finalisation of the investigations.
In the case, Mutizirwa told the court that investigations on the matter were still on-going and asked for a postponement to April 30 for possible furnishing of the trial date. Also awaiting trial is former Energy minister Samuel Undenge in a matter where he stands accused of abuse of office and prejudicing the State of $12 650.
Undenge on February 27 had his application for refusal of further remand dismissed.
During his hearing for further remand, the ex-minister complained that the State had taken over four months to investigate a letter which he confirmed to be his.
The court, however, ordered the State to speed up investigations to enable trial to commence.
At the same time, former Tourism minister Walter Mzembi — facing $1,6 million theft of trust property charges — remains on remand pending trial.
Only on Wednesday, former Mines minister Walter Chidakwa and the ministry’s secretary Francis Gudyanga, who are being charged with criminal abuse of office, were further remanded to May 30, by Gweru provincial magistrate, Pathekile Msipa, with no trial date in sight.
Kent University law lecturer Alex Magaisa said the inordinate delay in prosecuting corruption linked cases was a sad indictment on Mnangagwa’s administration.
“There is no new dispensation. That’s why there has been no single conviction for corruption since the coup.
“It’s a pity some have fallen for the deception. As for the law, you can’t use unlawful orders as a defence.
“But there’s no appetite to prosecute. They protect each other,” Magaisa said on his twitter account.
Political analyst Vivid Gwede felt there was no political will by the new administration to follow through the high expectations which their coming into office had promised.
“I think that it has been all hot air because all the corruption fishing expedition has not brought any shark to shore.
“Maybe it was meant as a public relations exercise but most importantly, it has not even netted the small fish, while we have seen some government officials totally treating the whole exercise with contempt.
“What it has done is to belittle the importance and urgency of fighting corruption in Zimbabwe,” Gwede told the Daily News on Sunday.
Leader of the Devine Destiny Network Bishop Ancelimo Magaya dismissed the notion that it was too early to judge Mnangagwa’s administration.
“It’s not early to judge. We have to look at the bigger picture. Just like the stench around the ownership of Zim Airways, they know what is happening and the manipulation of facts and truths but are they bold enough to act?” questioned Magaya.
Political analyst and post doctorial researcher Pedzisai Ruhanya described as rhetoric the promise of combating corruption.
“There is no honour among thieves,” he said.
However, presidential spokesperson George Charamba insisted government was working around the clock to reign in all corrupt officials insisting the crackdown on corruption will suck in more government officials.
Mnangagwa has been talking tough on graft which he has openly blamed for accelerating economic decline.
To this end, the Judicial Service Commission is establishing specialised anti-corruption courts throughout the country so that justice is expeditiously served on perpetrators of graft.
Some feel that while almost all of Mnangagwa’s initiatives point in the right direction “they are five years late”.
These were five years when Zanu PF did nothing and because it is such a late start there is no critical mass apparent in the new policies. Daily News