Legal Expert Tells Govt To Guarantee Protection Of Whistle-Blowers

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By Felix Matasva, Manicaland Correspondent

A LEGAL expert with the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Peggy Tavagadza says the Whistle Blower Protection Bill recently approved by cabinet must factor in a Witness Security Program (WSP) to ensure the protection of people who blow the whistle on high profile corruption cases in the country.

A witness protection program which has been adopted by Kenya and other developed countries is designed to protect threatened witnesses before, during and after trial.

The program is usually catered for a witness whose testimony is deemed essential for successful prosecution of a criminal case and in which a witness’s life or the family of his is at risk.

The program also provides health and safety of government witnesses, and their immediate dependents whose lives may be in danger due to their testimony against corruption and other organised crimes.

Speaking Tuesday during a Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ)’s consultative meeting in Mutare Tavagadza noted that establishment of WSP through legislation will encourage whistleblowing on corruption in the country.

“Maybe this has been already addressed in the approved bill but there is no harm in discussing what we would want to see in that bill. It is recommended that the model protection law as experienced from other jurisdictions must have facilities to relocate the witness within the country or outside the country,” Tavagadza said.

She added: “For a whistle-blower we need a safe place where someone calls a home. The model bill should bring to the fore a witness protection program whereby the government will have safe shelters for relocation of whistle-blowers. The witnesses may suffer from psychological problems, and they must be given help.”

Tavagadza told at the side-lines of the consultative meeting that a trust fund must also be set up to finance the Witness Protection Program.

“I propose that we need to have a board, a Witness Trust fund so as to restitute. This will makes it easier for whistle-blowers to come on board, because sometimes whistleblowing comes with losing your job and livelihood after raising alarm of a vice,” she said.

She also noted that the Prevention of Corruption Act which criminalises potential whistle-blowers that might not have verified facts deters people from reporting corruption as it comes with a lengthy custodial sentence.