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Al Jazeera journalist speaks out



GOLD mafia in Zimbabwe exist at the patronage of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, which renders responsible entities formed to fight corruption, as well as smuggling of the precious mineral compromised, an Al Jazeera producer of the undercover documentary The Gold Mafia, has said.


 Alexander James, one of the journalists who worked on the documentary which has exposed how large quantities of gold are smuggled out of the country and money laundered, made remarks on Thursday evening during a virtual policy dialogue convened by Sapes Trust.

 The virtual meeting titled: Debt and Corruption in Zimbabwe: Is the Al Jazeera Report the tip of the iceberg?, was moderated by Daily Maverick editor Mark Heywood and included speakers like Harare North MP Allan Markham, Sapes Trust director Ibbo Mandaza and human rights activist Tony Reeler, among others.

Alexander said: “When a state is captured, you have to question some of the abilities of authorities and organisations to effectively target corruption. I think it is specifically the case in Zimbabwe,” he said.

“The gold mafia exist by the patronage of the very top guy. The number 1 as they refer to him.

“When you have a stage of an individual control in a state for the for the benefit of a paltry minority rather the majority, who make policies for personal benefits, you have to question the ability of institutions to be independent and to be able to effectively investigate that corruption.”

The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, Special Anti-Corruption Unit, Financial Intelligence Unit and Zimbabwe Republic Police and other government anti-graft organisations have so far done little to crack-down on the gold mafia exposed by the Al Jazeera film.

 Before the documentary, several cases of gold smuggling by characters mentioned in the documentary as close to Mnangagwa and part of the gold mafia have been swept under the carpet or given a blind eye by the anti-corruption organs of Zimbabwe government.

Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) president Henrietta Rushwaya, who is mentioned in the Al Jazeera film as part of the gold mafia, was arrested at the Robert Mugabe International Airport while attempting to smuggle six kilogrammes of processed gold to Dubai.

 In February this year, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) top official Tawanda Zvekare said Zimbabwe’s prosecuting arm of the judiciary does not have enough evidence to secure a conviction against Rushwaya.

Another character in the Al Jazeera film again revealed as part of Mnangagwa’s gold syndicate, Scot Sakupwanya, has been named several times by Community Based Organisations in Manicaland as fuelling gold plunder at Redwing Mine, has never been arrested.

No commitment so far has been shown by police as willing to arrest the other gold mafia characters like Ewan Macmillan, Simon Rudland, Uebert Angel, Kamlesh Pattni and others implicated in the Al Jazeera documentary.

 Contributing in the Sapes Trust discussion, Heywood said while it was unlikely that Sadc can be tough on Zimbabwe over the gold mafia, the right thing to do was for the bloc to hold the Harare regime and Mnangagwa for the inordinate gold plunder, as well as money laundering issues raised in the documentary.

“What I can say is that there is zero political will in South Africa to tackle corruption issues in Zimbabwe because of the liberation ties between the two countries’ ruling political parties (ANC and Zanu PF). “There is also disillusionment in the Sadc Tribunal caused by the late Robert Mugabe.

 “However, the people of Southern Africa as a whole must hold the government of Zimbabwe accountable for the revelations made in the documentary,” he said.

Markham emphasised that Mnangagwa must be held to account and urged countries where the gold mafia actors are living such as South Africa and the United Kingdom to open investigations against them.

“They (gold mafia) must be held accountable in countries they are citizens to. The people have to account for how much they have taken out. We want transparency. The government must publish in honesty the exact wealth that is going out of the country.

“There is debate right now in Zimbabwe of the scale of corruption happening. We will see in the next week how government responds,” he said.

Human rights activist Tonny Reeler said there must be political implications on people fingered in the documentary in the next elections.

“We are going into elections. There must be political implications on those involved in the documentary. There must also be collaborations in investigations between Zimbabwe and countries where the money laundered is going,” he said.

Simba Chikanza who was the researcher in the Al Jazeera documentary urged people in the diaspora to pile up pressure on Harare administration over the corruption exposures revealed.

“Ability to steal in Zimbabwe is being rewarded. If you can demonstrate that you can steal and not be detected you are rewarded. I had a video call with the Queen of the gold mafia, the Family Lady (Auxillia Mnangagwa) on 14 May last year and shivered saying don’t curse me,” he said.

In the concluding remarks during the virtual discussion, Chikanza said people are anxious about lack of action by government of Zimbabwe on the Al Jazeera exposures.

“The question is what is to be done. The media must therefore conscientise the population to hold people to account. The Al Jazeera revelations are so damning. The media must play a role,” he said.

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