7 March 2014

Zimbabwe: Mega Earners to Go Unpunished

EXECUTIVES of parastatals and public enterprises who awarded themselves huge salaries, at a time their institutions were underperforming and workers went unpaid sometimes for months, will go unpunished as Prosecutor-General Johannes Tomana says they had broken no law.

In a wide ranging interview, Tomana also justified his decision not to prosecute former adviser to RBZ Governor Gideon Gono, Munyaradzi Kereke, on allegations of rape involving minors.

He also distanced himself from any involvement with controversial Ghanaian businessman William Ato Essien, who last year sensationally alleged he had been swindled of US$6 million by former Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation chairperson Godwills Masimirembwa.

On the disclosures of "obscene" salaries raked in by management at public institutions, Tomana said while there may be questions on the morality of the remuneration, law enforcement agents could not act because there was no statute which regulates incomes or prices in Zimbabwe.

"Unfortunately, morals are not laws," said Tomana. "Morals can be raw materials that enable you to have certain laws. When a moral pinches you enough it can be raised into a law, but that has not happened. In this case, you ask yourself: what has been violated when there is no regulation or law which controls prices and salaries?"

He said following the abolishment of the National Incomes and Pricing Commission in favour of an economy where prices and incomes are determined by market forces, his and other offices have been left with no power to act.

"In view of the mega salary revelations it may be necessary to have regulations. I cannot charge Happison Muchechetere for earning US$40 000.

"There is no law which stops people from earning too much. In court they know we cannot punish people for not breaking the law," Tomana said.

On Kereke, Tomana said he would not prosecute the MP until further investigations were done.

He said his office had studied the docket and returned it to the police so that they carry out further investigations.

Tomana however said the complainants' guardian was refusing law enforcement agents to directly access the complainants, hence the stalemate.

"When a docket is brought we look to see whether there is evidence to sustain the case. If it's not there we decline to prosecute. If it's not there but can be found we refer it back to the police for further investigation," he said.

Tomana said a statement by one of the complainants in the case was to the effect that "when she heard what the other sister said about what happened to her (rape) she remembered that the same had been done to her".

"I said go back and ask the complainant what happened, but they are saying the complainant's guardian is refusing to avail the complainant. How do you expect me to prosecute?"

Tomana insisted he would not bow down to pressure to prosecute the local businessman even from the courts, arguing it was unlawful for anyone or any institution to force him to act in a particular way.

On Monday High Court judge Happiness Zhou reserved judgement in the matter in which Francis Maramwidze is seeking to have Kereke prosecuted over allegations of raping his 11-year-old relative at gunpoint four years ago.

"Somebody goes to court to ask it to order me to prosecute Kereke... but the constitution makes it clear I am subject to no direction. Section 260(1) say subject to this constitution, the PG is independent and is not subject to the direction or counsel of anyone and must exercise his/her functions impartially without fear, favour, prejudice or bias," he said.

Tomana said he could not use the testimony of one of the siblings to prosecute as the matter is being treated as one case.

On Essien, he said he had no relationship "whatsoever" with the Ghanaian businessman, whom he said he met for the first time at a World Diamond Council meeting in United States.

Tomana, in the company of then Mines minister Obert Mpofu and Zimbabwe Republic Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, met Essien in Washington,in the US. ZMDC, the ZRP and Essien's Bill Minerals firm were partners in Gye Nyame Resources, a diamond producer in Marange.

But Tomana said he had gone to the meeting in his capacity as the government's legal advisor.

"He (Essien) approached me saying an investor and I have a problems. He said he was being threatened by his partners who claimed he was facing arrest in Zimbabwe.

"I told him I do not have a docket against him and that if he was a genuine investor there would be no problems if he visited the country.

"That was the last time I saw him and the last I heard is that he actually came and met with his colleagues and the President (Robert Mugabe) in Bulawayo. What did I do wrong?"

Tomana said he would also continue with legal action against the European Union (EU) for imposing sanctions on the country, despite the removal of several influential people from the measures introduced by the EU in response to what they termed human rights violations and the breakdown of the rule of law.

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