Zimbabwe Anti-corruption Commission (ZACC) recently launched an operation of conducting lifestyle audits on people suspected to have illegally acquired their wealth.
The operation aptly named ” Operation Wakazviwana Sei?”, will see ZACC asking investigated individuals to explain their source of wealth and the failure to give convincing proof will lead to property being taken away from them.
Operation Wakazviwana sei? Was launched in the name off eradicating corruption and fraud, which falls within ZACC’s mandate and one of President Mnangagwa’s flagship policies. Speaking to The Herald, ZACC chair Justice Loyce Matanda-Moyo said:
“This is an intensive lifestyle audit on some of the rich people. They have to produce their invoices on what goods or services they rendered and this has to match the value of the acquired properties,” she said.
We will also be checking if these people or their businesses were paying taxes. This means that the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority is also on board as we seek to ensure compliance to all laws.”
One of the first persons who seem to have underwent a lifestyle audit is socialite Genius Kadungure a.k.a Genimbi and was found wanting. However, his properties haven’t yet been attached.
Lifestyle audits are not unusual
What seem to be unique to Zimbabwe is actually launching an operation that hunts down individuals with questionable wealth. In South Africa, lifestyle audits are conducted on individuals as part of the country’s tax authority processing of tax related claims.
But in Zimbabwe’s case, it is ZACC’s, an antigraft body, that has actually set out on an expedition to catch individuals with ill-gotten wealth even though it’s not a tax authority.
Criteria for deciding who to investigate and misuse of operation
Although Operation Wazviwana Sei is targeting the rich, there’s no promise that this will not come down to even the poor later on. What’s more worrying is that we don’t know the criteria that ZACC is using to define “rich people” and also how it will identify such people.
This leaves room for political exploitation of the Operation because it could be used to torment people who are regarded to be malcontents by the government. In the interest of knowledge, in South Africa, its tax authority scrutinize things such as bank records and vehicle and property ownership records to identify rich people and launch investigations. Is this what ZACC is also doing?
Given that the bulk of Zimbabweans are earning their living in the informal sector, which is divorced from the culture of documentation, if Operation Wazviwana sei? is extended to the broader population, many people will be found wanting.
It further gets worrisome
Operation Wazviwana Sei gets even uglier when you take into account that the Courts are not the final abirter of an individual’s claims to property.
As stated by ZACC’s Commissioner Makamure, the anti-graft body and the National Prosecuting Authority can forfeit a property even though the Courts have cleared an individual of any criminal charges related to the your income or acquisition of a property. Commissioner Malamute said:
“The unexplained wealth orders are a profound development in the quest for zero tolerance to corruption. This is because someone can be acquitted in a criminal trial but still have assets forfeited as long as on the balance of probabilities there is reasonable suspicion that they were acquired from corrupt activities.”
This means that ZACC and NPA have unrestrained and questionable power which override the Courts. The Operation along with other day-to-day prodecures to fight corruption and fraud are expected to recover “assets worth $300 million by the end of this year” according to Commissioner Makamure.