By Tendai Kamhungira
Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko has called for sweeping law reforms which impose stiffer penalties such as cutting hands and shooting people tried and found guilty of corruption.
Mphoko’s calls are at odds with his colleague — Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa who has publicly said he is against death penalty — a position which stems from his personal experience during the war which saw him avoiding the noose due to young age.
Zimbabwean laws currently impose capital punishment on people who would have been found of guilty of committing aggravated murder.
Mphoko told State media last weekend that Zimbabwe must wage war on deep-seated corruption by introducing stiffer penalties and methods such as those used by the Chinese and Muslims.
“I wish we were like the Chinese or the Muslims who say if you steal, they will cut your hand off; the Chinese would take you to the firing squad straight away.
“But here, people have no feelings for other people. The solution we keep on talking and have stiff penalties,’’ said Mphoko.
“But stiff penalties also are questionable because if you are taken to prison, especially when there is politics of poverty, everybody is accessible to be bought.
“Stiff penalty? You take a man to prison and in the prison, he lives like a king because he has money,” he added.
Since assuming office four years ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping has waged war on corruption, with dozens of senior people jailed, including Zhou Yongkang, who was once China’s powerful domestic security chief, given a life sentence for corruption last year.
Human rights law expert Dzimbabwe Chimbga said that under current Zimbabwean laws, it was not possible to impose capital punishment for corruption.
“Legally, it is not possible to impose capital punishment, which is the death penalty, because Section 48 of the Constitution now limits imposition of the capital punishment to only persons who have committed murder under aggravated circumstances.
“And even then, the capital punishment may not be imposed on a woman or anyone below the age of 21 or above the age of 70 at the time the offence was committed,” Chimbga said.
For bribery, one may be convicted for a period of up to 20 years and for criminal abuse of office, for a period of up to 15 years, in terms of the Criminal Code. Critics and the opposition accuse President Robert Mugabe of failing to tackle high-level graft and say endemic corruption is one reason foreign companies are hesitant to invest in the country.
Mugabe has at times admitted to corruption among his Cabinet ministers but says police lack the evidence to prosecute.
Harare lawyer Obert Gutu said that the maximum sentence for corruption is not well defined in the country’s statutes, but agreed with Mphoko that the law was too lenient in punishing offenders.
“In fact, there are yawning gaps in as far as what level of sentence, exactly, should be imposed on corruption offenders. I definitely agree with . . . Mphoko that we are too lenient when it comes to sentencing corruption offenders and consequently, there is not enough incentive for Zimbabweans not to indulge in acts deemed as corruption.
“In the same breath, I am unable to agree that we should impose the capital sentence on corruption offenders as is the case in countries such as China.
“At any rate, the Constitution of Zimbabwe outlaws the imposition of the death sentence on corruption offenders. My take is that our courts should be ruthless when they sentence corruption offenders. It might sound draconian but I humbly submit that high-level corruption offenders should be sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labour,” Gutu told the Daily News.
A Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) revenue performance report for the first half of 2017 released last week by chairperson Willia Bonyongwe bemoaned runaway corruption in the country. Daily News