Magistrates at the anti-graft courts have been ordered to forfeit assets purchased from proceeds of corruption according to the law, as a deterrent measure to the vice.
Addressing stakeholders in the fight against corruption during the launch of two specialised Anti-Corruption Courts for Harare and Bulawayo yesterday, Prosecutor-General Advocate Ray Goba said the laws of the country allowed for forfeiture of assets upon conviction of criminals.
Chief Justice Luke Malaba officially opened the specialised courts in the two cities, scaling up Government’s fight against corruption.
Adv Goba said investigators of corruption should go beyond investigating the suspects and move towards targeting their assets.
“Because the motivation for corruption is always profit, investigating agencies are now required to not only investigate and target the predicate criminal conduct, but also the assets and the processes that are undertaken by criminals to conceal the illicit origins or tainted nature of those assets through money laundering,” he said.
“Therefore, sentencing processes must include forfeiture of assets upon conviction. The money laundering law of Zimbabwe now provides for non-conviction-based forfeiture of assets.
“The courts will increasingly be called upon to deal with different types of quasi-civil applications in criminal proceedings, not only for warrants of seizure, but also for interdicts, restraint and forfeiture orders.”
Officially opening the specialised courts, Chief Justice Malaba said the Judicial Service Commission refurbished three courtrooms at Harare Magistrates Court and two others in Bulawayo to deal with corruption related matters.
The magistrates, together with selected prosecutors, have received thorough training on handling corruption cases.
“We have identified seven magistrates for Harare, who include the chief magistrate (Mr Mishrod Guvamombe) and his deputy (Mr Gibson Mandaza), two regional magistrates and three provincial magistrates to preside over these courts,” said Justice Malaba.
“In Bulawayo, we have identified five magistrates, together with a team of prosecutors selected by the Prosecutor General, who have undergone training to prepare them for the task ahead.”
Chief Justice Malaba said the purpose of the courts was to ensure that those guilty of corruption were prosecuted, convicted and punished accordingly.
Anti-graft courts, he said, were a product of a protocol crafted by stakeholders to the Against Corruption Together (ACT) campaign that was launched in 2016.
“The protocol provides for setting up of the anti-corruption courts, the operational parameters for the special teams, the general procedures in court and timelines to be observed,” he said.
Chief Justice Malaba urged magistrates to deal with corruption without fear and deny any form of influence from other quarters.
“I expect our magistrates to preside over cases brought before them independently, impartially and efficiently,” he said. “There should be no undue influence to bear on any of the stakeholders involved in the administration of justice from any quarter.”
Permanent Secretary for Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Mrs Virginia Mabiza, said the opening of the courts was a milestone achievement for the ministry.
“To us in the ministry, this is a milestone towards the attainment of our vision,” she said. “Setting up of anti-corruption courts is one of our goals and we have partially met our target in terms of the 100-day Rapid Results Initiative (RRI).”
Mrs Mabiza said the latest development was a sign of commitment by the stakeholders to fight corruption under the national anti-graft movement initiated by President Mnangagwa.
“That is clear evidence of commitment to stamping out corruption,” she said.
“Honourable Chief Justice, colleagues, a new dispensation has dawned upon us and we stand with His Excellency the President on his stance that corruption no longer has a place in a new Zimbabwe that is open and conducive for business.”
More courts to deal with cases of corruption will be established in all the other eight remaining provinces.