Published in 2020
- Constitution of the Republic of Zimbabwe
- The Prevention of Corruption Act 2004
- Criminal Procedure and Evidence Amendment Act 2004
- Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act 2004
- United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) 2004
The Republic of Zimbabwe does not have a stand-alone law that sets out guidelines for persons who report incidents of corruption and misconduct, whether they be the actions of public officials, state agencies, private corporations and individuals. There is no whistleblowing legislation currently in the statutes in Zimbabwe, much less any protection specifically aimed at guaranteeing the protection of reporters of corruption.
The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) is the agency mandated to lead the fight against corruption through the investigation of complaints of such incidents reported to it.
ZACC has limited capabilities to adequately comply with its mandate, primarily being hampered by the following deficiencies:
- it has no powers of arrest and prosecution and only investigates incidents of corruption and misconduct
- its capacity is substandard which in turns hampers its efficacy in fulfilling its mandate
- it is severely understaffed and underfunded
- its reporting standards are not in line with global best practices.
- its efforts are undermined by its over-reliance on other agencies like the Zimbabwe Police Force.
Whistleblower Laws And Policy
There is no whistleblower agency, such as the Office of the Whistleblower in Namibia and other jurisdictions such as Canada, the United Kingdom, Serbia, et al. This means that there is a lack of an easily accessible complaints mechanism to coordinate and compile reports which would be properly forwarded to ZACC for investigation.
Whilst there appears to be a commitment, in terms of the drafted legislation, to combat the scourge of corruption, there is no proper coordination by the different state agencies with respect to a clear programme of action. Most of the provisions aimed at tackling corruption are found in various provisions of the criminal statutes such as the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Amendment Act (2004) and the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (2004). However, corruption is rife in the effecting agencies, with most Zimbabweans perceiving the Zimbabwean Republic Police (ZRP) force as the most corrupt organ of state.
Similarly, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions is also seen to be aligned to the ruling ZANU PF political party of President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Despite some laws prescribing harsh terms of imprisonment, up to 20 years as is legislated in Section 3(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, many politically connected and influential persons escape sanction through intervention by their proximity to power.
In 2019 the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, in a study on the least corrupt nations, Zimbabwe was ranked 158 out of 180 countries, underlining how far it is from global best practices, despite its strong legislation aimed at curbing the rise of corruption and fraud. The political will to enforce compliance is seen as very weak.
Zimbabwe also lack a protection from employer reprisals linked to disclosures of possible corrupt practices and misconduct against employees who report such misconduct. There is no provision in Zimbabwean law which guarantees the protection of witnesses.
Section 14 of the Prevention of Corruption Act criminalises the victimisation of persons who provide or disclose information on corrupt practices. Whilst the legislation is comprehensive in laying out its objectives, the execution thereof is often limited by the means of the enforcing agencies of the state. There is no provision in the statute books which provide for the protection of a witness’s family, and such protection is limited to the persons who report offences and assist and testify in court cases arising therefrom. There is also no provision in any current legislation that allows for witness relocation and assignment of new identity because the law is silent thereon.
The South African Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act 34 of 1995 defines a witness as ‘ a person who wishes to give evidence, gives evidence or gave evidence for the purposes of this Act and includes any member of his or her family or household whose safety is being threatened by any person or group of persons, whether known to him or her or not, as a result thereof.” This Act effectively established the first witness protection agency in Africa, which is severely lacking in Zimbabwe, and will continue to impact negatively on its efforts to eradicate the culture of fraud and corruption which has become entrenched in many of the country’s institutions.
Zimbabwe has an archaic law on its statute books called the Official Secrets Act, OSA, (1970) which is a remnant of its colonial past enacted by the previous white-only government in the then Rhodesia. Section 4 of OSA deals with the “prohibition of communication of certain information” and creates a series of offences relating to the receiving and disclosure of official information without authorization.
While state agents argue that the OSA act is aimed at safeguarding critical national security interests and is aimed at combatting spying and espionage against Zimbabwe, it is often used to suppress exposure of corrupt practices and maladministration in government institutions. The penalty for disclosure of state secrets without prior authorisation under section 4 of OSA is a term of imprisonment of up to 20 years, a fine or both such fine and imprisonment. Such extreme punitive measures have the effect of silencing any exposure of corruption by potential whistleblowers.
Media And Speech Laws
The Official Secrets Act currently exposes members of the media to possible long-term imprisonment should they disclose information obtained in contravention of the Act, and as such muzzles the disclosure of corruption and state malpractices. It causes the media to censor freedom of expression which is a constitutional right in terms of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
The media is often intimidated by the improper application of the provisions of the Official Secrets Act and other repressive laws in efforts by state organs to quash and prevent disclosures of corruption and maladministration. Zimbabwe continues to be one of the most repressive countries in which the media operates and independent outlets are routinely shut down and broadcasting licences suspended. In many instances the state has also resorted to violent measures such as arson in burning down places where media organisations operate from or by using state agents such as the youth wing of ZANU PF, which has militias operating throughout the country, to harass, intimidate and assault journalist who expose public and private corruption.
In the 2019 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Zimbabwe was ranked at 127 out of 180 countries, a clear indicator of its repressive atmosphere in terms of media freedoms and the exercise of individual freedom of expression.
Weaknesses And Needed Reforms
The United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) places a duty on member states to adopt laws and measures which provide witnesses and whistleblowers effective protection against reprisals and intimidation arising from disclosures they have made. Article 32(1)(2) of UNCAC states measures such as relocation of witnesses, limiting the disclosure of any information pertaining to their identity or their whereabouts, as ways in which protections can be guaranteed.
There should also be the enactment of a specific Witness Protection Act, such as is the case in Botswana, South Africa, Kenya and other jurisdictions like the United States. Such legislation should be distinguishable from the provisions contained in the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, and the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Amendment Act.
As is the case in South Africa, a witness protection agency should be enacted and with regulations setting out the duties of the staff of such envisaged agency. To prevent any hint of political interference, such agency or institution should have the power to act and investigate claims of corruption independently from compromised agencies like the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Central Intelligence Organisation, which is essentially Zimbabwe’s secret police, an agency with a dire track record of human rights abuses. An independent WhistleBlower Act should draw inspiration from the wealth of similar legislation in the SADC region and tailor it to meet the challenges of corruption within the Zimbabwean context.
There should also be public measures undertaken by the state to publicise the existence of such progressive legislation once enacted, and to educate the broader society about their rights in terms of the new legislation, and ultimately about the role of transparency and accountability in facilitating the growth of democratic institutions and how these measures ultimately contribute to a stable democratic Zimbabwe.
Knowledge, support and action centers
Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC)
The ZACC is an independent commission created to fight corruption and crime. Its mandate extends to the investigation of economic crime and encompasses the role of pubilicising anti-corruption campaigns and preventative measures. It is perceived by many civil society organisations as inept, understaffed and under-resourced, and without any real authority.
- Address: Endeavour Crescent, Harare, Zimbabwe
- Tel: +263 24 2777777
Global Infrastructure Anti Corruption Centre -Zimbabwe (GIACC)
Founded in 2008 in the United Kingdom GIACC is an independent not for profit organisation which promotes the implementation of anti-corruption measures in government and private sector organisations worldwide. The Zimbabwean affiliate was established in 2009 with the aim of creating awareness of the damaging effects of corruption and raising awareness of ways to combat and prevent it.
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
The forum is a coalition of twenty-two Human rights organisations tasked with promoting and protecting human rights in Zimbabwe. It is comprised of a variety of organisations working in the fields of women’s rights, civil and political rights, freedom of expression and the media, prisoner rights, anti-corruption campaigning and good governance.
- Address: Suite 4-1Raleigh Street PO Box 9077, Harare, Zimbabwe
- Tel: +263 04 772 860
- Fax: +263 04 770 170