Gold Mafia film: Mnangagwa the documentary protagonist
AS the narrative of Qatar-based international television news channel Al Jazeera’s Gold Mafia investigative film on gold smuggling, money laundering and corruption unfolds and audiences navigate the story arc, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has firmly emerged as the protagonist: Leading actor.
Even if he is not being directly investigated in the documentary and narrowly escaped being recorded after undercover Al Jazeera journalists stopped short of crossing the ethical line by resisting to pay the US$200 000 “facilitation fee” to see him, everything still revolves around him.
He is the fulcrum of action and centre of gravity.
The commission paid to see Mnangagwa ranges from US$200 000 to US$1 million, according to the investigation.
Together with his ambassador plenipotentiary, self-styled Prophet Uebert Angel (real name Uebert Mudzanire), Mnangagwa is the pivot of action, events and the narrative.
In the past three episodes — the film has four — audiences have been through the five stages: advance publicity of the documentary through a trailer; exposition, and rising action. The climax will come in Episode 4 and thereafter falling action, and dénouement.
It is at the climax where Mnangagwa and those close to him are expected to take centre stage as the full cast is shown and their roles become even clearer.
Episode 1 showed that all the main characters involved are the president’s men.
Angel’s business partner Rikki Doolan, who is married to his niece Nicola, said if one “greases the wheels” — meaning pay bribes — everything moves properly.
Doolan told the undercover reporters Zimbabwean ministers and officials accept bribes to facilitate dirty deals.
“Once we get the ball rolling, there will be points at times along the way where people will need to be greased, ministers, different guys. In a country like the one we are talking about, it’s the only way to get things done smoothly,” he said.
Doolan also said Angel needed payment too for his role in pushing the deals by the undercover reporters.
“He is bending over backwards. He is calling the President. He has arranged a meeting for you already. The ambassador is not being appreciated yet… Now back to the main thing that we have not yet addressed, this thing of appreciation, this thing of facilitation, whatever you want to call it. What are we doing?” asked Doolan.
In episode 2, gold dealer and convicted smuggler Ewan MacMillan says Mnangagwa is his partner.
“I have been doing gold since I was 19; I went to jail for the first time for gold when I was 21…and you will not believe this but my partner is the President. I did 60 days in the prison and my partner is the new President,” Macmillan said.
In Episode 3, we learn that Mnangagwa is very rich, he has a personal fortune and as a result does not receive “bribes” but gets “gifts” as high as US$1 million.
We are told that he is wealthy and that he is funding campaigns for the forthcoming general elections to the tune of US$240 million.
Angel says Mnangagwa does not take bribes or small money, but millions are given to him as appreciation for sealing deals with investors.
“That guy does not take bribe, Oh no, no, he won’t,” he said. “There is a big difference in appreciating somebody and bribing. At this level, people don’t bribe nobody. You get my point? Yeah people do. There is somebody saying thank you for everything you are doing for us dha, dha, dha, dha. Big difference because he is just not that kind of a person.
“His election, I think they are spending something like US$240 million and that is his money. It’s not the party, it’s his money. So when somebody got that money to spend on election campaign, you give him US$1 million, it’s like a slap in the face, unless you say this is a thank you,” Angel said.
Angel has featured prominently in the first three episodes of the documentary in which he has bombastically said many things, some of them revealing and shocking – including claiming to be empowered to sign treaties, contracts and agreements on behalf of the government without seeking anybody’s authority as a plenipotentiary presidential envoy and ambassador-at-large, with far-reaching implications for Mnangagwa, governance and public accountability.
There is no doubt that he is the star interlocutor in the film.
In the process of all this, Mnangagwa has been left exposed and politically vulnerable following the gold smuggling and money laundering corruption scandal.
The disclosures have shaken the country and the political landscape to the core. For the first time, Zimbabweans have seen the optics of how their gold is smuggled and money is laundered by criminal syndicates connected to top government officials and politicians who have cornered the precious mineral found in abundance across the country, while leaving them impoverished.
While the investigation brought so many things to light and left the nation shell-shocked, one of the most instructive disclosures about Gold Mafia — the investigative documentary film — is that all the main characters are linked directly and indirectly to Mnangagwa. More revelations are coming which will leave Mnangagwa worse off. Mnangagwa’s wife First Lady Auxilia is expected to feature in the last episode of the documentary series talking to Angel about gold dealings and influence peddling.
Already, we have learnt from Angel that if one needs to see Mnangagwa they would have to pay US$200 000 cash upfront for access.
The issue of people being charged to see Mnangagwa has been there for years now, but the Office of the President and police have warned against abuse of his name for personal gain, including name dropping.
The cash-for-access strategy in government is familiar. Controversial Zimbabwean socialite Susan Mutami, who now lives in Australia and has accused Mnangagwa of rape, claimed some Russian mining investors in 2019 had to pay US$150 000 through Mines deputy minister Polite Kambamura which he shared with an unnamed President’s son for their papers to be signed.
“In early 2019, there was a private jet that came to Zimbabwe and parked at Harare International Airport (now Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport) for a couple of days,” Mutami posted on Twitter on 5 February 2022.
“These guys were Russian and wanted a deal in mining, but because (Mines minister Winston) Chitando kept on going around in circles in signing their paperwork. “These guys then offered Polite Kambamura US$150 000 cash and Polite roped in the president’s son in the deal and they flew on their private jet to Victoria Falls where the president was for him to sign their paperwork.”
The US$150 000 which Mutami — who claimed to have had a love relationship with Kambamura — says the Russians paid in 2019 for Mnangagwa to sign their mining deal papers is not far removed from the US$200 000 that Angel spoke about as the access fee.
Zimbabweans are reeling under severe poverty amid economic implosion, with far-reaching social and political ramifications.
Every part of the country has gold deposits in varying quantities and qualities, and the mining is largely operated by artisanal miners who produce 60% of the mineral despite remaining poverty-stricken. Zimbabwe has significant reserves of platinum group metals, gold, chrome, coal, diamonds and lithium, among others.
The mining sector contributes about 12% of the country’s US$25 billion gross domestic product, and over 60% of its export earnings. The country, which earns about US$2 billion from gold annually, is losing at least US$100 million a month through smuggling and corruption.
Zimbabwe’s gold output surged to 35.38 tonnes in 2022, spurred by new mining projects, timely payments and incentives to miners.
Since he came to power through a military coup in November 2017, Mnangagwa’s criminal associates and wheeler-dealers have crawled out of the woodwork.
Opportunists have also jumped onto the bandwagon, parading themselves with him and posting pictures at the slightest opportunity to demonstrate their proximity to power and leverage.
The President is surrounded by dodgy characters deeply mired in corrupt activities. The Al Jazeera investigation reveals how billions of dollars’ worth of gold is smuggled from Zimbabwe to Dubai, allowing criminals to clean dirty money through a web of shell companies, fake invoices and paid-off officials.
Angel was recorded in Al Jazeera’s undercover investigation promising to help smuggle US$1.2 billion into Zimbabwe through a diplomatic bag and launder money from a Chinese mafia led by a fictitious Mr Stanley, a Sino gangster with links to the Triads.
The self-proclaimed prophet even said he could smuggle a person in his diplomatic bag, just to emphasise his freedom and impunity.
Initially the mafia had said they wanted to smuggle and clean US$100 million through Zimbabwe.
Angel promised the Chinese mafia smuggling and laundry services for the money.
He said “it’s easy” to do it because he would use a diplomatic bag which is not searched in terms of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and no one would dare stop him until the money reaches his Greystone Park home in Harare.
Further, Angel adds that he is the No.2 diplomat in Zimbabwe to Mnangagwa and has plenipotentiary powers — independent authority — to sign agreements and treaties on behalf of the country. Essentially, Angel says he can smuggle and launder the money for a commission.
Smelling a life-changing staggering commission from the US$1.2 billion being dangled in one of the sting operation meetings, he even says Mnangagwa will die in office. It is his way of avoiding spooking the mafia with their cash due to political uncertainty.
The investigative film is titled Gold Mafia. Its main characters include Kenyan tycoon Kamlesh Pattni, who was involved in the 1990s Goldenberg Scandal which almost bankrupted Kenya, but is now smuggling gold from Zimbabwe; Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation president Henrietta Rushwaya, who is also Mnangagwa’s niece; notorious gold dealer MacMillan; Alistair Mathias, Macmillan’s business partner who advises clients on how to clean their dirty cash; local business magnate Simon Rudland; Doolan who is married to Angel’s niece Nicola; and Angel himself.
In meetings, Angel is seen sitting next to his brother Limit Mudzanire and Dr Sobona Mtisi, chief investments and projects officer in Angel’s office, who is married to his niece Joy; sister to Nicola. There is also Dmytro Abakumov, Pattni’s runner, featuring in the documentary.
Mnangagwa, whose local political allies like former State Security minister Owen “Mudha” Ncube and Pedzisayi “Scott” Sakupwanya, among others, are involved in gold dealings, is closely linked with the dodgy characters in the Gold Mafia film.
Pattni, the MacMillans — Ewan and his family — as well as the Rudlands, Angel and Rushwaya, including their business partners and runners, are directly and indirectly linked to Mnangagwa and his network, making him the centre of gravity in the scandal. The latest Mnangagwa entanglement in a gold scandal comes after he was also implicated in another similar issue 20 years ago.
In 2003, Mnangagwa, then Speaker of Parliament after he had lost his Kwekwe parliamentary seat to the then MDC official Blessing Chebundo in 2000, was accused of receiving ZW$8 million from an illegal gold miner.
The allegations surfaced when Mark Matthew Burden, accused of trading in gold without a licence, appeared before the High Court.
Owner of several licensed mining operations, including Ivan Hoe Mine and eight gold custom mining plants, Burden was in court for illegally milling ore from small-scale miners and panners in Mnangagwa’s hometown, Kwekwe.
“Upon perusal of the bank documents, police discovered that the accused had made the following cheque payments to ED Mnangagwa. On 17 September 2003, the accused paid ED Mnangagwa ZW$8 million using bank cheque 693803,” court records show.
“When asked about these payments, which the police suspected to have been related to gold transactions, the accused could not satisfactorily explain,” the state said in the charge sheet.
Mnangagwa’s name was later removed from the charge sheet, but not before reporters knew it was there.