The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) has been a punching bag from the public, as a toothless dog in as far as fighting corruption is concerned.
In a move supposedly to give the anti-graft commission some biting teeth, the government through the ministry of justice recently gazzetted Statutory Instrument 143 of 2019, giving ZACC officers arresting powers, but the move is debatable.
The news of ZACC officers getting arresting powers stirred mixed reactions from law experts and the general public alike, some saying it was a good move, while other rubbished the move saying the body has always been compromised and can not fight corruption.
However, the enabling SI did not indulge into the implications of making ZACC officers, peace officers who can arrest, and for one to understand it, has to refer to the Act, the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act.
As there should be a limit as to their area of interest in relation to their capacity. Some analysts believe their area of scope should have been clearly defined.
This Act however, clarifies as peace officers, prison officers, the police, ZACC officers, immigration officers, and traditional leaders under that umbrella. They were given the power to arrest anyone seen committing or attempt to commit a crime with or without a warrant of arrest.
According to constitutional watchdog Veritas Zimbabwe, they should exercise the arrests with caution, and not to be used as punishment, but for the reason of proper prosecution. And that ZACC officers by definition, may not arrest suspects of crimes that are not related to corruption.
The watchdog adds that while the statutory instrument seems legal, a close look may reveal the illegality of the same. The legality stems from the fact that the enabling Act gives the minister of justice the power to designate anyone as a peace officer.
But on the other hand, the SI can be viewed as illegal, in the sense that section 255 of the Constitution, subsection 3 spells out functions of ZACC as follows; “The government must ensure through legislation that ZACC has the power to recommend the arrest and secure the prosecution of persons for corruption, abuse of power, misconduct, and any other offence which falls within the Commission’s jurisdiction.
“This provision would have been worded differently had the constitution makers envisaged ZACC officers being given the power to arrest…,” says Veritas.
The other way was to confer ZACC with additional functions through an Act of Parliament.
The constitutional watchdog warns the executive that it should approach Parliament, and persuade it to pass Acts to the desired effect on policies, rather than making SIs that are disputable at law.