ZIMBABWEANS reacting to the Al Jazeera documentary on gold smuggling by politically-connected elites say the country’s economic crisis has been created by a combination of mismanagement and corruption, rather than sanctions as the government has been falsely portraying over the years.
In a Twitter Spaces discussion convened by journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, participants said Zimbabwe’s crises have been man-made, particularly by politically-linked acolytes that have been smuggling minerals out of the country.
“Most of us have known that this has been happening, but the documentary has brought it much closer. There are a lot of things that are happening. For example, hospitals are not working. People are also going for three weeks without water in an urban area, which is not good.
“The excuse has been that the country is broke, and yet we have tonnes and tonnes of gold that are leaving the country every week. A few select individuals, which is completely unacceptable,” said a participant in the Twitter session.
The government has over the years attributed its failure to attain economic targets to Western sanctions.
However, an explosive documentary by the Qatari news channel, Al Jazeera, has revealed hard evidence showing how politically connected persons, all linked to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, have been smuggling gold to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), while laundering vast sums of money.
The racket has seen gold smugglers transport at least US$5 million every week, with the money being laundered in UAE banks, as shown by the documentary.
Part of the scheme includes self-styled prophet Uebert Angel, President Mnangagwa’s controversial envoy, who in the documentary brags about being able to sign binding treaties, even without the President’s knowledge, and controversial miner Henrietta Rushwaya, who was arrested in 2021 for attempting to smuggle 6.7kg of gold worth US$366 000 at Robert Mugabe International Airport in 2020. While she managed to wriggle out, her luck has run out, with phone calls in the documentary nailing her as a notorious gold smuggler.
In the documentary, Angel was caught pants down, promising Al Jazeera’s undercover investigative journalists to smuggle US$1.2 billion in a diplomatic bag into Zimbabwe for money laundering services for him to get paid for it.
Apart from overwhelming evidence of mineral smuggling, the country has also been failing to craft a clear debt resolution strategy, which has seen the country fail to pay lenders, further plunging the country into economic limbo.
Participants in the Twitter Spaces discussion said the gold being laundered, if properly administered, could have been enough to settle the national debt, which would ramp up economic development.
Zimbabwe’s debt overhang has been continuing to weigh heavily on the economy, with international financial institutions forecasting a decline in the gross domestic product.
In February, Mnangagwa conceded that debt was impeding development, at the second structured meeting, which sought to look into economic and governance issues constraining arrears clearance and debt resolution, headlined by African Development Bank (AfDB) president Akinumwi Adesina and former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano.
In December last year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected a fall in Zimbabwe’s real GDP growth rate to decline to about 3.5%, owing to internal and external shocks, among other factors.
With a total consolidated debt of US$17.5 billion, Zimbabwe has been owing international creditors US$14.04 billion, with domestic debt pegged at US$3.4 billion. Debt owed to bilateral creditors is estimated at US$5.75 billion, while multilateral creditors are owed an estimated US$2.5 billion.
The amount is also little, considering that close to US$4 billion is lost annually due to illicit financial flows, as revealed this week by former Finance minister and opposition MP Tendai Biti. The country’s corruption-induced woes have also been cascading into the region, with Zimbabwean economic refugees flocking to neighbouring countries for employment and health.
Last year, the head of health for Limpopo province in South Africa, Phophi Ramathuba, complained that the failure by the Southern African Development Community’s (Sadc) to tackle the migration crisis in the region is putting pressure on her country’s health system, whose resources are insufficient to cater for undocumented foreigners.
The country is also home to approximately three million Zimbabweans, many of them economic refugees fleeing corruption-induced poverty. Prominent Zimbabwean activist Evan Mawarire said: “Zanu PF is a criminal enterprise to the core.”
Banker Nigel Chanakira said while revelations by the Al Jazeera documentary have been an eye opener, it is important to be cautious before action can be taken. “Truth be told, we have been too busy doing whatever we have been doing. We have been busy talking about other things, and the documentary then leads us to painful scenarios.
“What happened has happened. What is important is that thought leaders take the initiative to stand for what is right. It is important that we do that. I know Zimbabweans want action. I think it is also important that we do not just leap into action. We have to be strategic. Why do I say so? This is because it is a military regime. People will die.
“And people have to be prepared to die. This is another revolution. I think the effect will be in the party itself. Because I cannot imagine that there are people who sacrificed their lives to die in the struggle for this nonsense that we are seeing,” he said during the Twitter Spaces discussion.