New Civil Society Report on Zimbabwe: More Political Will and Resources Needed to Effectively Fight Corruption

8 March 2021 –

Zimbabwe has made significant progress towards developing normative legal frameworks for the implementation of Chapter II (Preventive Measures) and Chapter V (Asset Recovery) of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), a new civil society report authored by the Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (ACT-SA) finds. ACT-SA produced its report, which is intended as a contribution to the UNCAC implementation review process in its second cycle, with technical and financial support from the UNCAC Coalition.

However, despite having several laws, policies and institutional arrangements in place, gaps still exist as evidenced through the ever-increasing cases of corruption. A lack of political will and inadequate resources deployed to anti-corruption institutions constitute a significant drawback in fostering effective corruption prevention and an effective stolen asset recovery regime.

Although the UNCAC country review of Zimbabwe has been completed, only the executive summary has been published on the UNODC country profiles page – the government’s self-assessment checklist and the full country report have been kept secret. Although ACT-SA tried to engage in a dialogue with government officials while writing this report, they did not receive responses to these requests.

Read the full civil society report in English here. Two translated versions of the report in the local languages are available here in Shona, and here in Ndebele.

Main findings

The government of Zimbabwe has yet to show an interest in and genuine commitment to enforcing anti-corruption laws and punishing offenders. The perception of a lacking commitment may result from many Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) being implicated in corruption scandals, but often escaping investigations and prosecutions. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) stands accused of weak prosecution and political interference in its activities, which frustrates anti-corruption efforts, since accused persons either end up being acquitted or the prosecution process takes very long to be finalised. Furthermore, corruption by law enforcement agents themselves is worrying, especially when they are bribed to scuttle investigations of corruption cases.

Moreover, members of civil society and the media who report cases of corruption face increased persecution, imprisonment or worse. The case of Hopewell Chin’ono, a renowned journalist who has been arrested and intimidated by the government after exposing corruption, is the most recent example. Additionally, there is no access to information law in place to facilitate citizens’ monitoring of government activities.

The report finds that the failure to contain corruption is closely linked to a lack of political will, inadequate resources, a lack of institutional capacity, compromised integrity of law enforcement agents and the judiciary, political interference into the investigations and prosecution of corruption, as well as increasing impunity, especially when PEPs are involved. It is against this background that several interventions are needed to develop the capacities of existing institutions and reform some laws.

On the other hand, the establishment of the Police Anti-Corruption Unit (PACU), specialized anti-corruption courts, and a whistleblowing application initiated by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) to report corruption, are among the good practices highlighted in the report. However, the effective implementation of these mechanisms is needed for them to have a meaningful impact on anti-corruption efforts.

Key recommendations

In its report, ACT-SA makes several key recommendations for priority actions, to be taken to ensure the full implementation of the UNCAC in Zimbabwe. It is recommended that Zimbabwe:

  1. Improves its interaction with civil society organisations (CSOs), the independent media and the private sector in the UNCAC review processes and the fight against corruption in general by ensuring that more CSOs, media and private sector players are consulted;
  2. Enacts and implements a law on access to information in line with international best practices, including the establishment of an independent body such as an Information Commissioner to oversee the implementation of this law;
  3. Increases the financial and human resource capacities of anti-corruption institutions such as the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) to implement their mandates in the most effective, efficient, independent and sustainable manner;
  4. Works to obliterate cases of impunity against corruption, especially cases of corruption involving Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs).

More specific recommendations for Chapters II and V of the UNCAC are provided in Chapter VI of the report.

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