INVESTIGATIVE journalists who worked on Qatar-based global news network Al Jazeera’s Gold Mafia documentary say whistleblowers and an accountant for one of Africa’s most notorious gold dealers confirmed that criminals were making regular payments to President Emmerson Mnangagwa at State House to ensure they operate smoothly.
The journalists said documents they had studied also confirmed the payments. Sara Yeo and Alexander James told The NewsHawks in an interview on the sidelines of the African Investigative Journalism Conference at Witwatersrand (Wits) University in Johannesburg, South Africa, this past week that whistleblowers and Pattni’s accountant confirmed that Mnangagwa received regular payments.
Yeo and James told journalists attending the conference that they had no doubt that Mnangagwa was the power behind the rival gangs looting Zimbabwe’s gold and that he was receiving payment from criminals.
Although the gangs were different, they all operated with Mnangagwa’s blessing. “I think with Kamlesh Pattni as well, we were speaking to Raj, who is also his whistleblower, who is also his accountant.
So he confirmed what Kamlesh Patni was saying; that he had to deliver to the State House every fortnight, I think it was just payment to Number One,” Yeo said.
James said all the evidence they gathered corroborated what the gangs revealed on camera.
“When they’re talking about it, they’re confirming essentially what we’re seeing on the documents or what we’re seeing through the testimony of the whistleblowers too,” James said.
“These guys, you know, they have the veneer of legitimacy. They have paperwork. They have gold trading licences. They are not hiding in the shadows. They’re doing their own scams, too . . . I’m sure there’s stuff that the President wasn’t aware of that they’re doing, too, but they operate at his discretion.
“They serve at his will.
“Every single one of them talks about the necessity, as Pattni says, to have the king with you. And we’re left in no doubt that that was how they operated and how they continue to operate. Someone like Kamlesh Pattni is a political operator first and foremost, too. So they occupy this space, and they occupy the space because of the situation created by President Mnangagwa.”
James said Mnangagwa was the glue holding the operations together because of his relations with the dodgy businessman and key players in Zimbabwe such as controversial charismatic pastor and businessman Uebert Angel and his niece Henrieta Rushwaya, who is also the Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation boss.
“I think the phone call with Auxilia Mnangagwa confirmed that we were really dealing with the very top,” James said. Kamlesh Pattni, who was implicated in the Goldenberg scandal which almost bankrupted Kenya in the 1990s, revealed his younger brother paid Mnangagwa every two weeks to enable him to smoothy carry out his gold and money laundering operations in Zimbabwe. “This is like the norm of life. The incentives, the fees . . . the appreciation,” said Pattni.
“Every two weeks, Swetang, my brother is there. Every fortnight, he is there at the State House. We always contribute our appreciation.” At that point one of the reporters asked: “To Mnangagwa?” “To the King himself,” responded Pattni.
“When you work, you must always have the king with you. The President.” He also showed reporters pictures of him with Mnangagwa and First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa.
“This is his number. I call him Tembo,” said Pattni. One of the undercover reporters then said: “You WhatsApp him?”.
“I always give him how much we have done . . Yeah, he has to be informed. I was just writing him a message here,” responded Pattni, showing the reporters WhatsApp messages he exchanged with the President.
One of the undercover reporters appeared stunned and asked: “This is the President’s number? Direct to the President?”
Pattni responded: “Yes, directly . . . I have to inform him.” Pattni, also known as Brother Paul, tells reporters they would enjoy the same protection that he gets from Mnangagwa before assuring them that the President was “100%” aware of the money laundering plan.”
Ewan Macmillan, a veteran Zimbabwean gold smuggler first arrested in the 1990s, revealed Mnangagwa was his business partner and friend although he abandoned him when he was arrested.
“He was my partner, my exact partner. He said to me, don’t open your mouth. Your life will get worse than it is,” Macmillan recalled. “I said f**k, are you kidding me?” Alistair Mathias, who sets up complex gold smuggling schemes for criminals looking to cleanse millions of dollars of undeclared cash, also claimed Mnangagwa was his business partner and friend.
“In Zim, ED is my partner. I can’t say it in public because he’s sanctioned,” Mathias said. Footage of the Al Jazeera investigative docuseries shows Angel calling First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa to ask if the criminals should use their own plane as they sought to bring US$1.2 billion dirty money into Zimbabwe?
“Remember those people that want to move cash,” Angel asked. “They would want to know, are we providing the planes or [are] they providing the planes?”
Auxillia referred her to Mnangagwa.
James told The NewsHawks the Al Jazeera team had done a thorough job in their investigation which took four-and-a-half years.
“I think first and foremost what we have been able to do is to put something down on record. The corruption that our film exposes is incontrovertible. It’s a mixture of documents, it’s backed up by sources and the undercover filming,” James said.
“You are hearing it from the perpetrators of that corruption. So don’t let any of these media figures or politicians hoodwink you into thinking that this is part of an international conspiracy against the President. We followed a chain of evidence and that led us to our conclusions and the evidence is there for you to see. And maybe those in power do not want to confront this evidence right now, but it’s there and if people are going to refer back to it in the future, it will still be there.”
Asked what the major takeaway from the investigation was, James said: “It’s that Zimbabwe, under President Mnangagwa, is a captured state, and the distinction between supposedly independent institutions like the Reserve Bank and the pockets of the President and those around him, the gold miners, the lines of distinction aren’t there.
“So when people talk about sanctions on the President, it’s by extension the capture of the state because he has control of that state. And that was it. It was showing essentially the theft of a country, the theft of a nation by the gold mafia, by those close to the President and, by all accounts, these people are still doing business in Zimbabwe, still making money, still robbing the country.” Did Al Jazeera play into Zanu PF’s factional politics? James said the Al Jazeera documentary was not motivated by Zanu PF factional politics. The documentary was released in March, four months before Zimbabwe’s general elections. There was talk in Zimbabwe’s political circles that Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga had pushed for the documentary to discredit Mnangagwa ahead of the elections.
“I’ve spoken to some people, friends involved have talked about this, that essentially because we focused on Mnangagwa, that we played into some sort of factionalism within Zanu PF between Chiwenga and Mnangagwa,” James said.
“I think we followed the evidence. There are other guys in the Spincash story, there’s the President. Vice-President Chiwenga is involved in money laundering, but our evidence didn’t flow to Chiwenga. We focused on, as I said, the loops we felt we could close, where we could show each step of the way there was some money moving, and we could demonstrate that very clearly.
“I think that’s one of the strengths of the investigation, that we’ve, through both the undercover work and the documents and the whistleblowers, we can confidently close those loops in which the money flow is moving. So in our case that all flowed to Number One (Mnangagwa). There wasn’t really anything that led to Number Two (Chiwenga). That’s not to say all flowed to Number One, there wasn’t really anything that led to Number Two . . . It was just that the evidence we had just flowed in that direction.”
Spincash, an investigation by The Sentry, reveals South African chrome miner Zunaid Moti, who partnered the army to mine chrome in Zimbabwe, paid US$3 million to companies linked to Mnangagwa and Chiwenga.