ZACC capacitated to protect witnesses

18 Nov, 2022 - 00:11 0 Views
ZACC capacitated to protect witnesses ZACC chairperson Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo

The ManicaPost


Ray Bande
Senior Reporter

THE catch-and-release of accused persons in high profile corruption cases is fuelled by witness fatigue and lack of witness protection, but it is set to be a thing of the past after the enactment of the Public Interest Disclosure (Protection of Whistle-blowers) Act, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) chairperson, Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo has said.

In a wide-ranging interview on the sidelines of the ZACC strategic review workshop in Mutare yesterday (Thursday), Justice Matanda-Moyo said the absence of legislation that protects whistleblowers and witness scares away potential witnesses or whistleblowers, especially in high profile cases.

“There are also cases of accused persons being acquitted because of witness fatigue and lack of witnesses protection. Currently, we do not have a witness and whistleblower protection law in Zimbabwe and that is itself scares away possible witnesses or whistleblowers, especially in high profile cases which endanger their lives.

“I am happy to say that the principles of that piece of legislation have been adopted by Cabinet and the Attorney General’s Office is now preparing the Bill for presentation to Parliament. Very soon we will see this piece of legislation which is very crucial, being enacted.

“Once it is in place, the catch-and-release will be a thing of the past. We have cases involving high profile persons where witnesses shun coming to court fearing reprisal. They feel that they are not protected at all. We feel that witnesses need to be protected so that all evidence is presented in court and culprits are brought to book,” she said.

The Public Interest Disclosure (Protection of Whistle-blowers) Bill, whose principles were approved by Cabinet, is widely expected to help the country fight corruption by giving informers confidence to expose graft without fear.

ZACC staff members who leak names or identify whistleblowers will face jail terms of up to six months along with ordinary disciplinary action under legal amendments proposed by the Commission.

At the same time, ZACC will not protect those who maliciously make false reports against others, pretending to be whistleblowers.

The proposed draft amendment to the Act under which ZACC operates under which has since been sent to the Office of the President and Cabinet, seeks to promote a culture of reporting all corrupt activities without fear of victimisation and full protection for whistleblowers.

The confidentiality of the whistleblowers identities should stop the problem being faced by whistleblowers and State witnesses in high profile graft cases at parastatals under ZACC investigation being harassed through suspension, transfer and at times being charged for frivolous allegations to cripple ZACC investigations.

Justice Matanda-Moyo said the catch and release conception of ZACC operations is also partly a product of general or public misunderstanding of the court processes.

“The catch-and-release is almost a song now in the country, but this emanates from misunderstanding of court procedures. It is mainly emanating from bail procedures.

“When culprits are granted bail, the public take it as if they have been acquitted. Bail applications are simply a process where the court decides whether a person is fit to stand trial coming from home or face trial coming from remand prison.

“The considerations are only whether the people will be able to avail themselves for trial. If evidence is overwhelming that the person can face trial coming from home, then the law demands that the person faces trial coming from home.

“If you look at other cases, most people are being convicted coming from home. Look at the case of the former Permanent Secretary (Francis) Gudyanga who was convicted coming from home. So the catch-and-release is a phenomenon of misunderstanding of court procedures,” she said.

Justice Matanda-Moyo said her Commission is making efforts to improve on the use of technology so as to keep up the pace with offenders.

“We are moving towards that direction. As you know we are in the era of technology, we have just established our electronic case management system which we are now using, but we now want to link to ZIMRA, Zimbabwe Republic Police, Central Vehicle Registry and even the courts.

“We really need to embrace technology in fighting corruption so that we do not unnecessarily lose documents. The manual system is very cumbersome. You may think you have the crucial documents and the next day you lose them because somebody would have stolen them.

“Right now we are moving towards effective use of technology and I am happy that we are moving in the right direction although more still needs to be done,” she said.


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