ON Thursday, Part 1 of Al Jazeera’s long-awaited investigative documentary titled Gold Mafia was released.
Undercover reporters posing as gangsters with US$1 billion of dirty money that needs to be cleaned managed to record various corrupt elements disclosing their role in the astonishing looting of Zimbabwe’s gold.
Although there is really nothing new about the news-gathering methods of the Al Jazeera crew, the intrepid journalists manage to gain remarkable access to members of Africa’s Gold Mafia and film closed-door meetings with crime bosses.
Charismatic preacher and self-styled prophet Eubert Angel is caught pants down. Angel, born Eubert Mudzanire, is no ordinary chap; he is President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Presidential Envoy and Ambassador-At-Large to Europe and the Americas.
Lofty titles indeed!
Angel, who boasts that he is Zimbabwe’s “number 2” diplomat, is captured on camera offering to smuggle into Zimbabwe US$1.2 billion using the cover of his diplomatic bag.
The gold mafia says it can easily launder money through government gold export schemes.
One of the highlights of the documentary is the finding that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) is essentially southern Africa’s biggest laundromat. Interestingly, the RBZ fell into the trap of responding to the allegations even before the Al Jazeera report was released.
It appears the authorities at the central bank have continued with their badly calibrated communications strategy — issuing yet another kneejerk statement denouncing the documentary. But wait a minute, this is only Part 1; what will the RBZ do if the three remaining episodes uncover unassailable evidence?
For a long time, people have wondered why Mnangagwa is soft on corruption, yet he was catapulted to power by a military coup which dramatically promised to tackle “the criminals surrounding Robert Mugabe”.
There is really no mystery; Mnangagwa is the source of the problem and you do not need to be a rocket scientist to figure this out.
His own government is on record as admitting that Zimbabwe loses at least US$100 million every month to gold smuggling. The big question is: What have the authorities done about this rampant looting? Nothing, as far as the empirical evidence shows. The border posts are still leaking like a sieve; airports have been reduced to smugglers’ playgrounds; politically-connected persons are untouchable, and the real cause of Zimbabwe’s multi-faceted crisis is high-level corruption, not Western sanctions.
Illicit mineral dealings are masterminded by politically connected individuals and networks.
That is how the culprits find it easy to manipulate airport security, evade tax and escape the scrutiny of security agencies. There is an entire ecosystem of brazen criminals.
Henrietta Rushwaya — who runs the Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation and is also Mnangagwa’s niece — was caught at Robert Mugabe International Airport in 2020 with six kilogrammes of purified gold. Predictably, she was virtually let off the hook.
It is also important to mention that the Al Jazeera exposé is not the first time a corruption scandal has been laid bare. Far from it. Journalists in this country are regularly exposing corruption.
The headache, it seems, is that the citizens typically follow a familiar behavioural pattern whenever a scandal erupts: they momentarily gasp in disbelief, proceed to chat excitedly on social media platforms for a couple of days and soon forget about the entire brouhaha. The politicians know this and — true to experience — the storm seldom lasts long.
Al Jazeera’s investigative documentary is helping the world to solve one of the most enduring puzzles of our time: Why is Zimbabwe, a country vastly endowed with valuable natural and human resources, failing to give its people a dignified life?