HARARE – A cartel made up of police officers, lawyers, prosecutors, magistrates and judges working with powerful politicians has corrupted the justice delivery system in Zimbabwe and is prepared to kill to get its way, Acting Prosecutor General Kumbirai Hodzi said on Thursday.
Hodzi was speaking during his interview with the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) which is leading a search for the next Prosecutor General.
The corruption has led to irregular acquittals, and an attempt had been made on his life, he told the panel which included Chief Justice Luke Malaba.
“If you see some of the intelligence that we have in terms of corruption here, it has become a threat to the survival of government because the syndicates now are so powerful they rival the power of government,” Hodzi said.
“In the 1990s, Italy had to come up with unorthodox measures within the rule of law to crush this.”
Zimbabwe was in danger of losing its “social and moral fabric as a society” owing to what he called the “erosion of professionalism” in the justice system.
“Brutal” measures had to be taken to disrupt the cartel, he said.
“When you do a triangulation and you want to come up with a clear picture of how the syndicate operates, you will quickly realise that it starts with the absence of professional integrity,” Hodzi told the JSC.
He went on: “There has been an erosion of professionalism by a few lawyers who are very corrupt. There are a few officers who have been captured in the NPA, in the judiciary, the police and even the registry. They operate as a cartel.
“Most of the lawyers, the old lawyers, they had stopped going to do criminal matters. Advocates would come to my office saying it’s a waste of time; it’s orchestrated; its corrupt and justice is being sold to the highest bidder.
“We have identified the main characters that are involved and we are building a dossier. If we are to develop our system of justice to see to it that it’s fair to litigants, and to the community, we are going to have to confront this corruption head-on.”
The cartels, he told the JSC, also had infiltrated media organisations.
“The other strategy of the cartels has been disinformation. Even before we arrest a person, they know they are going to be arrested because the cartel also involves members of the media. A story will be deliberately planted, we know their tactics now.
“They will write that ‘so and so is going to be arrested but the evidence is weak’ to prepare the mind of the Republic that whatever happens is going to happen. The corruption of the whole process also occurs, but we are now up to that game.”
Attorney General Prince Matshaya, part of the JSC panel, noted Hodzi’s claim of a cartel “pursuing a course of destabilisation to our justice delivery system” before asking him if “they have not brought the fight back to you personally in order to disable you from what you are doing”.
“That’s exactly what has happened. We have traced some of the cartel right up to very high-ranking political figures who are pretending that they are untouchable. I made my report, a very damning report, to my principals who gave me the go-ahead to move against even those persons. I received assurances that at the end of the day they won’t have any political cover,” Hodzi said.
He said after writing the report, it is presumed to President Emmerson Mnanngagwa, there had been “very damaging political attacks” against him.
“It’s something that I didn’t want to disclose, it’s an attack, it’s a matter of life and death at the end of the day,” he said of the plot to kill him.
“Documents were delivered to my office. They circumvented all the security protocols. I found a letter on my desk purporting to come from some official, and when I opened that letter there was a sting, a sensation in my hands. I touched my eye later on and over the weekend my eye lost almost 90 percent of the sight and I had severe nose bleeds at home.
“The eye kept on deteriorating and I had to have surgery. Every (security) agency is still trying to find out how that substance was introduced.”
Hodzi is in the running to be appointed permanently but has nine other candidates cying for the same post – Noriah Mashumba, Misheck Hogwe, Jessie Majome, Maphios Cheda, Tino Chinyoka, Wendy Chingeya, Florence Ziyambi, Tichaona Mantsebo and Edmund Marondedza.
The interviews continued into Thursday evening.