Another damp squib?

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Taking into account that a person is innocent until proven guilty, Zanu PF Manicaland provincial chairman Mike Madiro and the party’s expelled provincial youth chairman were on Friday finally picked up, questioned and released over serious allegations of extortion and corruption.

NewsDay Editorial

The allegations mainly pertain to extortion of close to $1 million from diamond mining firms.

Earlier, Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa had announced that Madiro and four of his subordinates had been suspended to pave way for police investigations and to ensure that they would not interfere with the probe.

While they had been under a cloud of suspicion for weeks, police only moved in to make arrests after the go-ahead to probe and suspend them from President Robert Mugabe following a high-level party meeting.

While investigations should be made before arrests, this has not always been the case, especially as regards high-profile political opponents of Zanu PF.

Furthermore, the need to have the nod of powerful politicians to probe and arrest ties the hands of the police; they would not to dare investigate unless and until given the political permission. In constitutional democratic states, the police do not face such constraints or hurdles. They get on with it.

Again, the promptness of their release after questioning raises the issue of impartiality or lack of it. This is not to say they are guilty or deserved to be locked up over the whole weekend, but that there has not been consistency on the part of the police in their handling of such cases.

We have noted over the years that perceived and real opponents of Zanu PF are usually picked up on a Friday and locked for the whole weekend to make a court appearance the next Monday or even later.

Furthermore, could these allegations be the tip of an iceberg? Will this latest step lead to some real movement in the fight against graft where Zimbabwe has been consistently ranked among the most corruption states in the world over the last decade?

Or could this be another reprise of sound and fury signifying nothing? We say so because there have been persistent murmurings and open accusations about corruption at Chiadzwa diamond fields, but these have been met with angry and stringent denials from the relevant ministry – Mines.

Civil society organisations have raised this, only to have their officials arrested – some detained for long periods — and charged, giving the impression of victimisation to silence them. If there is nothing to hide, why should this happen?

Isn’t it like the police placing the burden of proof on informants and going on to arrest those informants instead of taking this as being provided leads to carry out investigations? This is the normal response we know – it is called the basic investigative approach.

It is hoped that these investigations will be taken to their logical conclusion with justice meted out on those found on the wrong side of the law, and those not guilty duly acquitted instead of the political sideshows that have been dished out to the nation to distract people from real, burning issues whenever elections approach.

We say so without pre-empting the case.

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